Muslim shopfronts torn down in Mumbai

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Authorities in India’s financial capital Mumbai have torn down several Muslim-owned makeshift shopfronts after religious clashes sparked by a divisive Hindu temple opened this week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Minor clashes broke out on Jan. 21 in parts of Mumbai, including one incident where Hindus chanting religious slogans passed through a Muslim neighborhood on the megacity’s outskirts.

No serious injuries were reported in the melee but by Jan. 23, authorities had called in excavators to knock down more than a dozen shopfronts belonging to Muslims in that locality, according to local media reports.

The following evening another 40 shopfronts were knocked down on Mohammed Ali Road, a major downtown thoroughfare and center of local Muslim commerce that had also seen weekend clashes.

“We were undertaking deep clearing of the road in which some temporary hawkers and so forth were removed,” a local municipal officer, who declined to be named, told AFP yesterday.

Numerous traders of all faiths often build makeshift shopfronts out of canvas and wood to shield their businesses and patrons from the city’s scorching sun and pounding monsoon rains.

“I cannot fathom why this was done,” Abdul Haseeb Khan, owner of a restaurant hit in the clearance drive, told AFP.

“If they didn’t want these structures here, they should have informed us and we would have removed it. This is no way to take action.”

Municipal officials told local media that the campaign was “routine” and planned before the clashes, and that it was aimed at clearing illegal encroachments and easing pedestrian traffic.

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