While other BJP-ruled states and Delhi are emulating its example now, it was the Yogi Adityanath government that first adopted the bulldozer as a symbol of toughness on crime and criminals. In the recent elections, the Samajwadi Party’s bid to target the BJP over the razing of alleged illegal properties by coining the slogan ‘Bulldozer Baba’ for Adityanath, was turned around and used by the BJP as proof of his anti-crime resolve.
The drive to demolish “illegal” properties in UP began sometime in 2019. Before this, such properties belonging to alleged gangsters were just attached under the UP Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act. Officials said now they don’t just attach properties but also raze them, once it had been established that legal formalities were not completed before the construction.
However, some of them whose properties were razed told The Indian Express that the demolitions were done while the matter was still being heard. Many of the affected parties are Samajwadi Party leaders, some are former BJP leaders who joined other parties.
The administration has now expanded the use of bulldozers to threaten accused into surrender.
In no case have people whose properties have been targeted challenged the same in court.
This month’s record:
Here’s a list of demolitions since March 20, 2017, when Adityanath first became CM, till Dec 2021.
→ 14,982 cases lodged under UP Gangsters’ Act
→ 47,214 arrested
→ Rs 1,931 crore of properties seized and demolished
→ 685 persons charged under the National Security Act
April 3, Lucknow
The Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) demolished a building reportedly belonging to Jagat Narayan Singh, one of the police inspectors charged over the death of a Kanpur-based property dealer, Manish Gupta, during a raid at a hotel in Gorakhpur in September last year. An LDA official said the building was found to have been constructed without the formalities. The LDA claimed several notices went unanswered.
Singh was the SHO of Ramgarh Police Station in Gorakhpur.
April 6, Etah
The district administration demolished a brick kiln run by Ram Nath Yadav, a Samajwadi Party leader. Yadav’s younger brother Joginder Singh said they had been running the kiln at Jaithara area for 16 years, after purchasing it from local businessmen brothers Sandeep and Rajeev Paliwal in 1995-96.
Singh said the father of the Paliwal brothers, Om Prakash, had bought a 33 bigha plot from a Dalit owner around 1990 with due permission of then sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Jaithara. “Over a year back, we got a notice that the current SDM had canceled the permission given to Om Prakash. We filed an appeal in the court of commissioner and also moved the Revenue Board… But without a notice, a team of the district administration and police arrived and bulldozed the brick kiln,” Singh said, adding that they were being targeted for their SP links. . Singh is also an SP leader.
Additional DM, Etah, Alok Kumar said that they followed due process. “We found during inquiry that the building was constructed on government land.”
April 6, Shamli
Portions of properties owned by jailed SP MLA Nahid Hasan’s two uncles were demolished in Kairana, including a boundary wall raised by his uncle Arshad Hasan. Arshad allegedly was trying to sell some land falling under the Muzaffarnagar Development Authority (MDA), after dividing it into small plots. “Without approval of the map from the MDA, plotting of the land was on. After due process, including notices, the MDA ordered the demolition,” Shamli DM Jasjit Kaur said.
A case was also lodged against Arshad for an alleged illegal project in Shamli. Nahid is the MLA from Kairana seat in Shamli.
Arshad said he and a distant relative were carrying out a housing project on the land. “Without issuing any notices, the district administration demolished a road and the boundary wall,” Arshad said, adding that the government was harassing them on account of Hasan’s win (he had contested from inside jail and won). “We don’t have good relations with Hasan,” Arshad added, pointing out that he had contested the 2014 by-election on a Congress ticket against Hasan from Kairana.
The Shamli district administration has lodged three separate cases against another uncle of Hasan’s, Sarwar Hasan, for allegedly capturing government land and a pond in Kairana. The DM said he was also accused of constructing a building on enemy property (left behind by those who migrated during Partition), and that the district administration had demolished the construction done on it and seized other government land being used for farming.
Sarwar could not be contacted. Arshad said Sarwar too was being targeted for family links to Hasan, and had not got any notice.
April 7, Bareilly
A petrol pump belonging to SP leader and MLA Shazil Islam Ansari was demolished days after he made allegedly objectionable remarks against CM Adityanath. The Bareilly Development Authority (BDA) claimed the petrol pump was constructed without clearance for its structural map, and that notices had been issued back in 2019. After several hearings, and due process, the demolition order was passed last year, said an official.
While Ansari could not be reached, SP Bareilly district president Shiv Charan Kashyap said Ansari had submitted fees of Rs 10 lakh and a structural map to the BDA online over a year back. Asking what formalities had been left incomplete, Kashyap said: “The BDA was silent since then and demolished the building without notice.”
April 13, Kannauj
An under-construction shopping market belonging to SP leader Rajni Kant Yadav was demolished. Officials claimed that the complex was built by Yadav on government land, and that due process was followed before the demolition.
Former president of the SP’s Jalalabad block in Kannuj, Yadav faces 14 cases, under the UP Goonda Act and UP Gangsters’ Act.
Kannauj SDM Uma Kant Tiwari said the land on which the construction was done belongs to the gram sabha, but had been occupied by Yadav three years ago. “After collecting all the details, a notice was issued to Rajni Kant. He did not give a specific reply,” said Tiwari.
SP Kannauj district president Kaleem Khan said the BJP government is harassing its workers. “Rajni Kant had purchased the land.”
Rajni Kant could not be contacted for comment.
April 14, Etah
The district administration demolished a three-storey, under-construction building belonging to Balbeer Singh, the uncle of SP Etah district vice-president, saying it was on government land.
The SP leader, Sunil Yadav, said: “My maternal uncle purchased the land around two years back. We completed all the formalities before starting construction work around 18 months back.”
He said an official of the district administration had visited the site located opposite the Collectorate office and verified the documents. On April 4, the district administration razed the building without a notice. Besides, two cases were lodged against my uncle over accquiring government land.”
April 21, Saharanpur
The district administration demolished part of a commercial complex owned by kin of former BJP MLA-turned-SP leader Roshan Lal Verma. It also served notices to others, including former Minister for Ayush and ex-BJP MLA from Nakur constituency in Saharanpur Dharam Singh Saini, who like Verma left the BJP for the SP ahead of the polls.
Another MLA to make the switch with them, Brajesh Kumar Prajapati, has received a demolition order from the Banda Development Authority.
All three lost in the elections.
The Saharanpur administration said that 12 people owning 24 shops, including Saini, had been served notices for “illegal encroachment”. Saharanpur DM Akhilesh Singh said, “As per the preliminary probe… shops were built on land meant for a road. A part of the encroachment is built over an old veterinarian hospital.”
Verma alleged political vendetta behind the action against the complex, belonging to his widowed daughter-in-law Ruchi.
Saini said he had all the required papers for his two shops. “I still haven’t received the notice personally, but others have, and I am preparing my response accordingly.”
Banda Development Authority Secretary Rajendra Prasad Dwivedi said Prajapati hadn’t submitted the required papers. “Neither does the land belong to him, nor does he have the map for it. The demolition order was passed after he was served a notice.”
Prajapati could not be reached for a comment. A senior SP leader said: “So far, he was in the BJP, and all was well. Now, he is in the SP. So, the building is illegal and an encroachment. How come?
March 21, Pratapgarh; April 2, Saharanpur; April 7, Ambedkar Nagar; April 11, Azamgarh
In each of these cases, police parked bulldozers outside the houses of people facing charges and announced that if there was no surrender within a given time period, the properties would be demolished.
In the Pratapgarh case, police a bulldozer to get 24-year-old Shubham Modanwal, accused of raping a 24-year-old woman inside the toilet of a railway station, to surrender. Police said Modanwal, who had gone missing, was located soon after they parked the bulldozer near his home. The SHO of the local police station denied a bulldozer was used to threaten the family.
The phone of Modanwala’s family was constantly switched off.
On April 2, a bulldozer was parked outside the residence of brothers Amir (19) and Asif (22), wanted for the gang rape of a minor girl in Saharanpur. Three steps of a staircase outside the house leading to the first floor were demolished, with the two accused surrendering as police threatened to break more.
Asif’s father Sherafat said police had threatened them. “I am trying to get my sons out on bail,” said Sherafat, who is himself booked for allegedly threatening and assaulting the rape case complainant.
On April 7, five gang-rape accused, absconding for a week, surrendered before the Ambedkar Nagar police hours after a bulldozer was parked in their village. A hunt had been on for them since a case was lodged against them on March 29.
Accused Shubham Shukla’s brother Ajeet Shukla said Shubham had been falsely implicated. He said they panicked when the government brought in the bulldozer.
On April 11, a wanted gangster, Radhey Shyam Yadav, surrendered in Azamgarh within an hour, after a bulldozer was placed outside his house. Radhey Shyam’s family could not be contacted for comment.
Defending the tactic, a police officer said they had met with full success and saved time. “The investigation officer does not have to make rounds of court seeking non-bailable warrants or directions for attachment of properties. A parked bulldozer works more effectively.”