Cameraperson: Arbab Ali
Video Producers: Himanshi Dahiya and Rahul Goreja
Video Editors: Karuna Mishra and Abhishek Sharma
Unis Khan, 44, was asleep in his home in Haryana's Nuh on the morning of 5 August when he received a phone call from one of his friends informing him that the police and several bulldozers were demolishing his shop.
Khan hurriedly dressed, hopped onto his bike, and rode across the deserted roads to the Shaheed Hassan Khan Mewati Hospital on Nalhar Road. By the time he reached the spot, his shop had been reduced to rubble by bulldozers, and all that was left was his signboard that read ‘Wasim Medical Store’.
"Until today, nothing like this had ever happened here. Our lives have been destroyed," said Khan, a native of Haryana's Palwal who moved to Nuh in 2012 to set up his medical store after the medical college started.
Khan had taken a loan of Rs 15 lakh and had lately sold some of his ancestral land to stock the shop.
In the past week, Nuh district authorities bulldozed more than 300 homes and businesses.
Though most of these shops were owned by Muslims, a few also belonged to Hindus who had set up shop in properties owned by Muslims.
One such shopkeeper is Ajay Prasad Shukla, who owns a shop selling medical books and equipment.
Shukla, 36, was out on a morning walk on 5 August when he saw his shop being demolished.
“I ran to save whatever I could. But, 80 percent of my stock is in the rubble only. We weren’t able to save anything. What did I do to deserve this?” he told The Quint.
Shukla said that the land is owned by a man named Salahuddin, a resident of Nalhar village.
Shukla is a native of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and shifted to Nuh in 2013 and started a medical book store.
Along with Shukla, Hafiz Shoaib, a resident of Meoli who was employed in the shop, also lost his livelihood.
What Led to the Demolitions?
On 31 July, a religious procession organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, turned violent in Nuh. The violence that followed, led to the death of five people, including two home guards.
The violence spread to Gurugram where a mosque was set on fire by a Hindutva mob, killing a 22-year-old deputy Imam. Several vehicles, food joints, and shops were set on fire by unruly mobs across Gurugram district.
'I Was Not Part of the Mob': Shopkeeper Affected by the Demolition
The district authorities initially claimed that the action on Khan's shop and the other 55-60 structures near the medical college was an anti-encroachment drive, but later alleged that owners of some illegal structures were also involved in the violence during the procession.
"The owners of some structures were also involved in the violence during the Braj Mandal religious yatra," said Ashwani Kumar, Sub Divisional Magistrate Nuh.
Khan stated that he opened the shops on 31 July, the day the procession was held. "I had the shop open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. When we heard that riots had broken out in Nuh, I closed my shop and ran home. I was not part of the mob," Khan explained.
"Arrest the rioters; why are they causing harm to innocent people, whether Hindu or Muslim? Only arrest the rioters," Khan remarked.
'I won't be able to rebuild this': Woman who lost her shop in demolition
Zareena Begum, 70, stood about 20 feet away from Khan on a mound of bricks and rubble, trying to salvage items from her wrecked candy business.
Begum pulled out a carton of soft drinks and water bottles from the rubble. "This is all I've been able to salvage," she admitted.
Begum was at her kutcha home in Meoli village, an hour's walk from her shop, on the day of demolition. She learned about the demolition a day later when she went to check on her shop because the district was under curfew.
Begum and her six daughters depended on the shop for their livelihood.
When my son started living separately, he stopped giving me any money. That is when I opened this shop,” she explained, adding that she set up the business in 2012 and used to pay a monthly rent of Rs 6000 to the landlord.
Begum wishes to continue her business elsewhere but lacks funds. "I'm not going to be able to rebuild this. How much money can a poor person put in?” she asked.
Nuh Hotel From Where Stones Were Allegedly Thrown, Gets Demolished
On 6 August, about 6:30 a.m., authorities arrived with three bulldozers and demolished Akil Hussain's three-story 'illegal' Sahara Hotel on Nalhar Chowk, just 3.8 kilometres away from Begum's shop.
“The building was totally unauthorised and it was served notices by the authorities," district town planner Vinesh Kumar told reporters.
When The Quint visited the scene of the demolition, police officials informed us that the building was demolished because stones were thrown from the hotel's roof at the procession. The hotel was located on the 'Yatra' route.
"As a mob pelted the procession with stones, the 2,500-plus participants hurried into a Nalhar temple for safety," a police official alleged while speaking to The Quint.
Clashes 'pre-planned', would use 'bulldozers': Haryana Home Minsiter Anil Vij
Calling the clashes “pre-planned”, Haryana home minister Anil Vij had on 4 August promised action against the accused and said that the authorities would use “bulldozers” if the need arises.
“Action will be taken against in any case registered in connection with the Nuh violence, be it using the bulldozers too, if need be. People’s statements are being recorded and CCTV footage is being scanned… If any person from the public has shot some video on mobile, he or she should also come forward and provide us with those videos…,” he said. He also urged journalists to share with police the video footage and pictures they have with them.
'Tried To Stop the Mob': Owner of Demolished Hotel
Akil Hussain built the 8000-square-foot structure in 2015 and rented it to a man named Jamshed.
"The person we had rented the place to, tried to stop the mob," Akil Hussain's brother, Sarfaraz Ali, 41, told The Quint. "We have CCTV footage showing him trying to stop them, but a single person cannot stop a mob of 100-200 people. It's just not possible," he said.
Ali said the two boys made their way up to the terrace. "It's unclear in the video whether those two boys were pelting stones," he stated.
Ali and Hussain did not go to the hotel to try to stop the demolition because they were terrified of being arrested.
"They don't care about the evidence; they're arresting everyone. What is even our fault?" Ali said.
They got to know about the demolition from neighbors who were passing by the hotel. "They called to let us know that verification and measurement were underway. We assumed they would merely demolish the balcony. We had no idea they would bring down the whole hotel," he said.
Hussain's health deteriorated after receiving the news of the demolition, according to Ali. "He is not in a position to even talk to anyone. His blood pressure has risen and he is also a diabetic," he said.
Hussain has been admitted to a doctor's clinic. "We're even hesitant to take him to the hospital, fearing arrest," Ali told The Quint.
'Planned to get my children married, that won't happen for now': Hotel owner's brother
Apart from Jamshed's restaurant on the ground floor, there were 7-8 furnished rooms for paying guests, as well as the office of a Chartered Accountant who had recently moved into the building. "They didn't even let them take out their printer, computers, or anything," he explained.
The property, according to Ali, was worth Rs 64 lakh. "It will be a major task to rebuild it," he remarked.
Hussain's family relied on the rent from the building. "He planned to marry off his daughter and two sons. That will not happen now," Ali stated.
'We Didn't Even Get a Notice'
SDM Ashwani Kumar said that notices were given to the owners of the demolished structures, but everyone The Quint met said that they didn't get any notice before the demolition.
"I didn't even get a demolition notice. At the very least, show me a notice or a photocopy," Khan demanded.
Similarly, district town planner Vinesh Kumar said that the government served notices to Hussain. Hussain denied the claim.
The Quint requested a demolition notice from police officers on the scene, but they refused.
High Court halts demolition
On 3 August, the authorities razed shanties of migrants in Tauru, some 20 kilometres from Nuh, for allegedly encroaching on government land.
The demolition drive was halted on Monday, 7 August, after the Punjab and Haryana high court took suo motu cognizance of the action and ordered the authorities to pause the drive until further orders.
The court had asked whether the demolition of homes and businesses of mainly Muslim residents were “an exercise of ethnic cleansing”.
But the order meant little to Khan, Begum, Hussain, and the hundreds of other Muslims whose homes had already been bulldozed.