“Bulldozer Of Irony”; Boris Johnson’s Visit To JCB Factory In India, Just A Day After Jahangirpuri Fiasco, Invites Criticism

Amid the outcry over the destruction of houses in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area, where bulldozers were used to raze down ‘illegal encroachments’, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to inaugurate a JCB factory during his two-day tour of India has been dubbed “tone deaf”.

The British Prime Minister arrived in India just a day after the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) authorities in Delhi moved in with JCB bulldozers to raze homes and propertiesof mainly Muslim residents in an area of the capital where religious riots broke out over the weekend.

Though the authorities have claimed that the particular demolition drive in Jahangirpuri was against the ‘illegal encroachments’ and had no communal links, there have been multiple instances in the last two weeks where Modi’s BJP-led state governments in razed down houses of people allegedly involved in communal riots without a judicial trial. Modi’s critics have alleged that these actions have been taken mostly against those from minorities. Amid all of this, many observers noted the unfortunate timing of Mr Johnson’s JCB factory visit.

Mujib Mashal, the South Asia bureau chief of New York Times, wrote on Twitter: “Boris Johnson, in India, expected to visit a JCB bulldozer plant in Gujarat…on day India’s supreme court hears urgent case of how authorities in two states wheeled in bulldozers (JCB logos visible) to raze homes & shops in areas of communal clashes without notice or due process.”

Sanjay Kapoor, editor of Hardnews magazine, said: “What a bulldozer of an irony! British PM Boris Johnson will inaugurate the JCB plant in Halol that will manufacture bulldozers on a day when Supreme Court is taking cognisance of the constitutional limits of the administration’s use of the machine.”

Mohamed Zeeshan, editor of Freedom Gazette, wrote: Seems like @BorisJohnson’s visit is now turning increasingly tone-deaf. Visiting a plant of the JCB company while its bulldozers are being used to illegally terrorise Muslims? Someone at @UKinIndia failed to do their job. Only way Johnson can salvage this trip is by speaking up.”

Alishan Jafri, a journalist for The Wire, said: JCB’s website proudly notes that it is used for construction, agriculture, recycling and power generation. In India, it is being used to disposess the poor and inflict collective humiliation upon Muslims. Hope that friends in the UK will make hold their PM to account.”

Though the UK PM visited the Sabarmati Ashram and paid tributes to Mahatama Gandhi, the second thing on his agenda was inauguration of a new plant for the UK-based Joseph Cyril Bamford Excavators Limited (JCB) company — that drew attention to Mr Johnson’s visit from a number of critics of Modi regime. 

Many pointed out that bulldozers and diggers manufactured by JCB , which also produces agricultural and construction equipment, were used to demolish houses during a high-profile incident in Jahangirpuri, in north Delhi, the day before. The JCB logos on earth moving equipment were quite visible in pictures from Thursday in which tearful residents scrambling to retrieve personal items among the debris of their homes could be seen. 

The demolition drive by the NDMC, which is controlled by Modi’s saffron party, carried on for over one hour on Wednesday morning despite a stay order issued by the country’s Apex Court. Activists and locals alleged that the demolition drive was biased against Muslim residents, after officials stopped short of damaging a temple that was in the same lane as other structures which were said to be encroaching.

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