LAST WEEK, the UP government submitted an affidavit in Supreme Court stating that the Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) demolished the house of Javed Mohammad, an activist and accused in the protests against remarks on the Prophet, after receiving a complaint about “illegal construction” —and an office in the building visited by “anti-social elements”.
The affidavit included the complaint as an annexure, which identified the complainants as Sarafraj, Noor Alam, Mohammad Azam. The complainants did not mention their address or contact details but described themselves as “respected people of the mohalla”.
The Indian Express visited the mohalla at J K Ashiana Colony in the Kareli area of Prayagraj and asked 30 residents within a radius of 400m from the demolished house about the complainants. Fifteen of them declined to comment, saying they feared government action. The other 15 responded: all of them said they did not know who the complainants were, and had never heard of them being local residents.
And yet, based on two separate letters from the complainants last month, the PDA sent two notices to Javed within a span of two weeks seeking a response on the “illegal construction”, according to the affidavit’s annexures. Finally, the PDA, citing lack of response from Javed, demolished the house on June 12, two days after the protests.
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Ajay Kumar, the PDA Zonal Officer who, according to the affidavit, received the complaint, declined to comment.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a PDA official said: “We get information about illegal construction through several ways. We don’t look into the credentials of the complainant. We act on the information written on the complaint.”
Another official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “An inquiry was conducted. After the allegation was found to be true, action was taken.”
The affidavit was filed by the UP government in response to a plea by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind against the demolitions. The plea was filed a day after Javed’s house was demolished in the wake of violent protests over remarks on the Prophet by the BJP’s Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal.
Police have accused Javed, a senior functionary of the Welfare Party of India, of allegedly calling for the protests on WhatsApp and being the “main conspirator”. He was arrested on June 10.
The complaint attached with the affidavit stated that the construction of a double-storey building by Javed at House No. 39C/2A/1 in J K Ashiana Colony was done without getting the “building plan/map” approved from the PDA.
“The office of ‘Welfare Party of India’ has been opened in the building. People from far… keep coming to the office throughout the day and night and they park their vehicles on the road, which spoils the atmosphere of the locality. As the road is too narrow, there is a constant problem in commuting at that place. Some anti-social elements have also been seen in the office,” stated the complaint in the affidavit.
“The residents of the locality are facing a lot of trouble due to the functioning of the office in the residential area and (PDA) is also losing a lot of revenue due to non-approval of the building’s map,” it stated.
“Please get the building inspected and take action as per the rules for removing the office from the said building,” stated the complaint, which was addressed to the PDA Zonal Officer and marked to the Chief Minister, Divisional Commissioner, District Magistrate and Municipal Commissioner.
Local residents, however, described the allegations as “false”.
“I have never heard of anyone called Sarafraj, Noor Alam or Mohammed Azam living in our area,” said Shamimul Haq, who stays about 200m from the demolished house. Haq works in a private firm in Prayagraj after returning from Saudi Arabia in 2017.
“I used to pass by the house regularly and had never seen people standing outside in large numbers. There is no one with any of those three names living in this area,” said Haider Abbas, whose house is located around 300m from the house.
Mohammad Anees, who runs a general store in the colony, also said that there was no one by the name of Sarafraj or Noor Alam or Mohammad Azam in the area. “I have been running this shop for the past two decades but have never seen a crowd outside Javed’s residence,” he said.
Local corporator Nafees Anwar said there are around 1,000 voters in the colony and “it is not possible to trace these three complainants without a specific address”.
Asked about the complaint, Station House Officer of Kareli, Arvind Kumar Gautam, said: “To my knowledge, no one filed a complaint stating that anti-social elements used to assemble at his residence.”
Asked about the issues raised in the complaint over parking and commuting, Harish Chandra Yadav, an official in the local Khuldabad Municipal Corporation, said: “We have never received any complaint.”
Reached for comment, Special Secretary (Home), Rakesh Kumar Malpani, who filed the affidavit on behalf of the UP government, did not speak about the complaint and said the matter is in court. Prayagraj District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Khatri did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment.
Records in the affidavit show that the complaint, dated May 4, spurred the PDA into action.
Just six days later, the PDA Zonal Officer sent a notice to Javed under section 27(1) of the UP Town Planning and Development Act, 1973. The notice directed him “to appear before the undersigned on May 24, 2022 at 11:00 am and show cause why orders for demolition of the construction should not be passed…”
On May 19, the affidavit shows, the complainants sent another letter to the Zonal Officer, seeking an inspection of the building.
On May 25, the PDA issued another notice to Javed, citing a lack of response and directing him to “demolish the above unauthorised construction yourself within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order”. It asked Javed to inform the PDA about the action taken “latest by June 9, 2022”.
Both the notices state that a PDA supervisor, identified as Mahesh, went to the site with the notice but Javed’s family members refused to accept it.
Rejecting this claim, Javed’s son Mohammad Shujat said: “No person from PDA came to our residence before June 10 to serve any notice.”
On June 10, the day of the protests, the Zonal Officer directed Javed to vacate “by 11 am on 12.6.2022 so that the demolition proceedings…can be done”.
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