Akbar Khan, 17, and his mother Ashmeena, 53, were loading damaged but still useful items into a mini-tractor after picking them from the debris of their pathology lab.
Opened by them only two months ago, it was demolished on Saturday morning by the Nuh district administration as part of an “anti-encroachment drive” in Nalhar area opposite the Shaheed Hasan Khan Mewati Government Medical College.
Ms. Ashmeena said the lab, for which the family had taken a bank loan of ₹10 lakh, was their only source of income. “We have not yet paid the first instalment(extra space here) . I have four sons, two of them are married. My husband died 11 years back. How am I supposed to manage everything now?” she asked.
At least 45 concrete structures and 15 temporary structures, which include pharmacies, labs and food outlets, were razed by the authorities on the third day of their “anti-encroachment drive” days after communal violence erupted during a religious procession in Nuh. The violence, according to the police, had begun in Nalhar near a Shiv Temple where the procession was headed.
Newly-appointed Deputy Commissioner Dhirendra Khadgata claimed that various investigation agencies have found that the owners of these structures had a role in the violence.
Even though Nuh Sub-Divisional Magistrate Ashwani Kumar asserted on Saturday morning that notices were served to the shop owners, all those with whom The Hindu spoke to refuted the claims.
Mr. Khan said that he came to know of the bulldozers from a neighbour. “By the time we reached, they had already razed half of my lab. They did not even let us take out the expensive equipment,” he said.
“They (the authorities) are saying that we were involved in violence. I can show you the CCTV footage of that time. My brother and I were here at our shop,” added Mr. Khan.
Mr. Khan’s landlord, Mohammad Sahood, who owns three more shops in the area, said he had complete documents of his properties. He said he did not get any notice of the proposed demolition by the authorities.
“My three brothers and I own eight to ten shops opposite the medical college. There was some dispute on the property with the authorities but we have won the case in the local court and the High Court also,” he said, showing his property documents. He alleged that the officials who accompanied the bulldozers tore up the documents shown to them.
Vinesh Dalal, one of his tenants who ran a pharmacy shop, said, “I asked them to wait till the property owner arrives, but they did not wait and started pulling down the shops.”
Aas Mohammad, a security guard at the medical college, said that one of his house was razed down without any warning. “Although I admit I had built it on forest land, they should have given us time to take out our belongings. But when I showed them documents of my second house next to it, they agreed and left it untouched,” he said.
An elderly man, who did not wish to be named, says that both communities have suffered losses in the violence. “I own two-three shops here but most of my tenants are Hindus. Will they not suffer financially now?” he asked.
“I don’t wan to talk much about the government. I know we won’t get anything back now,” he added.