Khargone riots aftermath: Why a Muslim businessman’s shop was demolished?

Bulldozers demolished two bakery units owned by businessman Amjad Khan in Khargone in Madhya Pradesh on September 7. | Picture:

Following riots in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh in April this year, a local bakery owner has alleged that he has been targetted by the government. 

Muhammad Raafi | 

Support TwoCircles

NEW DELHI — On April 10 this year communal riots flared up in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh during a Ram Navami procession. Amjad Khan, a local owner of a small bakery business “Best Bakery” witnessed the carnage unfold.

The next day, Khan received a call from the local police station. He was summoned and told that he was seen at the spot of riots the previous day. Sham Pawar, a policeman, told Khan that he would be arrested and his house demolished.

On the day of the riots, Khan revealed to that the Sub-Divisional Police Officer of the area told him to help the police and administration to calm the tempers in his locality since he was a reputed businessman and had friends in both the communities — Muslims and Hindus.

“I did what the SDPO told me,” Khan said, “I stood at Talab Chowk and did not allow people to assemble,” he said.

Khan, a resident of the Jeelani Nagar area of Khargone, owns three bakery outlets in Karim Nagar, 100 meters away from his house. Two of the outlets are operated by Khan from self-owned shops while the third one is operated from a rented shop.

Priyanka Patel, the then Chief Municipality Officer of Khargone Nagar Palika called Khan and asked him to share the documents of all the shops and his house. “She called me at 9:30 in the morning on April 12,” Khan said. 

Within a few minutes, Khan shared all the documents with the CMO. However, at 11 am he received a call from his manager telling him that bulldozers were outside one of their shops in Karim Nagar.

As Khan reached Karim Nagar to check what was happening at his shop, he saw a heavy presence of paramilitary and police personnel along with officials of the district administration and municipality at the spot. “Some officials were measuring my shop and marking it. When I enquired why they were marking the shop, they said they have an order from higher-ups,” Khan told 

Without getting an answer from the officials on the spot, Khan drove to the local police station to get the answers.

At the police station, Khan met the Additional Superintendent of Police and other senior police officials including the SDPO. The ASP enquired from Khan if he had gone to the riot-hit places on April 10. “I said I had not gone. The SDPO sir sent me there,” Khan said, adding that the SDPO testified to his claims.

The ASP asked Khan to reach Karim Nagar. As Khan reached Karim Nagar he saw senior police officers of the district including the IG and DIG and the CMO of the municipality present there.

Khan spoke to CMO Patel and asked her why he was being targeted despite helping the police and the civil administration during the riots. “She didn’t respond and left,” Khan said.

By now Khan knew something was wrong.

“I asked the ASP if there was confusion and they were mixing up his name with another Amjad who lives in Qazipora and also owns a Bakery outlet,” Khan said.

As per Khan, there are five persons in Khargone by the name of Amjad and incidentally all of them own bakeries. He said he showed the ASP a newspaper cutting in which it was reported that a person by the name of Amjad had allegedly looted a house during riots.

This alarmed the ASP who called the CMO and narrated to her what Khan had told him. “If the person who has filed the complaint testifies that he was involved in looting, he would himself demolish his house,” Khan told the CMO.

Instead of asking the officials to stop the demolition till there is clarity on the issue, the CMO, Khan said, directed them to demolish one of my shops and let alone my other shops and house.

Khan objected and told the CMO that he had not committed any wrongs.

While addressing the Inspector General of Police, Khan asked if this was what he was being paid for helping the police administration during the riots.

Khan filed a petition with the Madhya Pradesh High Court on April 29 objecting to the demolition of his bakery. Government representatives in the Khargone district were served notifications by the court requesting an explanation for their actions.

Khan claimed that the most recent demolition on September 7 was the result of an encounter with naib Tehsildar and some other officials who visited his Bakery on September 2 to see if his bakery had the required permission. Khan claimed they were rude to him and entered without permission. He said the fact is that they did not like that I moved the court against them. “They destroyed one of my bakery outlets earlier, and now they are after the other two.”

As per Khan, the naib tehsildar Mahendra Singh Dangi went to the police station and registered a case against Khan for abusing him, tearing documents and threatening him. Dangi said that he, along with Naib Tehsildar T Vishke and Municipal Revenue Inspector Mahesh Verma and three other officials had come to the bakery for an inspection when indecent language was used against him and they were obstructed from doing their work.

A first information report was registered at the Kotwali police station the same day, under sections of the Indian Penal Code that relate to deterring a public servant from discharging his duty and using obscene language.

The Khargone district officials told that Khan’s accusations are unfounded. One of the officials said that in addition to lacking building permits, Khan’s businesses had not acquired clearance from the pollution board. Another official said that Khan had also not paid any of his taxes. However, Khan reiterated that he has paid all his commercial taxes till March 2023. “I can share the documents for the same,” he said.

Khan claimed that the CMO has been sending emissaries to him to drop the case. “Every time I tell them I won’t withdraw. I haven’t committed any mistakes and yet my business units have been destroyed. Who will pay for it,” he asked.

He said that MLA Ravi Joshi also called him on September 7 and told him to apologize to the CMO and withdraw the charges. “He assured me that everything will be alright if he withdraws the case,” he said. 

But, Khan said, he did not agree and the moment he came out of the MLA’s house, he received a call from his manager telling him that the bulldozers have started razing his Bakery shop.

“I won’t apologize or withdraw the case. Instead, I will file another case against the CMO,” he said.

Although the court has issued notices to the state government, there hasn’t been much development in the case, Ashhar Warsi, the lawyer of Khan said. 

However, Khan added he is optimistic and that justice will prevail.

Muhammad Raafi is a journalist based in New Delhi. He covers politics and human rights. He tweets at @MohammadRaafi