Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act: A Law to Create Communal Division in the State

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Waquar Hasan | Caravan Daily

AHMEDABAD – Gujarat’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has modified the controversial law – Disturbed Areas Act – and made it stronger with rather stringent provisions. The act bans the sale of property by the member of one religious community to another without the approval of the district collector, and is seen as a tool to create communal divisions between the communities in the state.

The new amendment has expanded the meaning of the word ‘transfer’, which includes sales, gifts, exchange, lease or taking possession of the property by way of power of attorney. The act is enforced in the big cities of Gujarat like Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

Activists are of the opinion that this law is not only useless but also creating a negative impact and essentially being a hurdle in the way of communal harmony.

“The act has not been strengthened but just given more tooth to bite the people. On one hand, the BJP is saying that article 370 should be abrogated in Kashmir and people should have the right to buy property everywhere, but on the other hand they are strengthening the Disturbed Area Act in Gujarat. In this case, the right to choice has been neglected,” said advocate Shamshad Pathan, who used to practice at the Gujarat High Court.

He further added that the act creates a lot of issues for Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Whenever a non-Muslim wants to purchase property from Muslims and asks for approval from the administration, members of VHP/RSS are informed about this, who go to the concerned families and threatens them. Due to this, not only Muslims but also non Muslims are unable to buy properties where they want. Needless to mention, they have to pay more than market price and are unable to sell their properties in the open market.

“This is harming both Muslims and non-Muslims. The act is in contravention to the right to have property, right to choose and right to freely move”, he said.

Human rights activist Nirjhari Sinha, also feels that the act creates communal divisions in the society. She further added that such laws based on religion, caste and community is problematic for the society as it is essentially polarizing in nature.

“Suppose somebody does not want to live in an area and wants to get out of there. He has to sell the property in the name of another community, or he has to purchase the property in the name of other community members. This will keep dividing the society,” said Ahmedabad-based activist Sinha.

Huzaifa Ujjaini, another Ahmadabad based activist, augments to the above fact.

“While we talk about cultural exchanges to reduce communal divisions, such laws are helping increase the same. This is unconstitutional and related to not only Muslims but all communities,” he said.

Ujjaini also feels that the society becomes polarized and the communities ghettoized when communal riots occur. “But here, the polarization is being forcibly done by the state and with the help of law”, he alleges.

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