Indian Muslim boy, 12, fined over damage to Hindu neighbour's house

The child has been fined nearly $3,600 following a complaint by his neighbour who accused him of robbing and vandalising his home

Nawab Khan stands by his shop which was vandalised on April 10 in Khargone, in Madhya Pradesh. Shops and properties have again been damaged in the state in clashes between Muslims and Hindus. AP
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Authorities in India’s central Madhya Pradesh state are demanding that a 12-year-old Muslim boy pays a 300,000-rupee ($3,600) fine after he was accused of damaging the property of a Hindu neighbour during deadly violence between the two communities.

At least one person was killed and several houses and shops set on fire in the Khargone region as Muslims and Hindus clashed during April's Hindu festival of Ram Navami.

The state's administration, ruled by the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), cracked down on the alleged rioters and demolished dozens of homes and businesses owned by the Muslim community.

It also fined those allegedly involved in rampaging and destroying public and private property under a law passed in December last year.

The Madhya Pradesh Prevention and Recovery of Damages to Public Property Act enables recovery of compensation for wilful damage during strikes, protests and group clashes.

The 12-year-old boy was fined after a neighbour accused him of robbing him and vandalising his home.

His father Kalu Khan, a labourer, was separately asked to pay 480,000 rupees by the state's Claims Tribunal, set up under the new law.

The tribunal, a quasi-judicial body with the powers of a civil court, has received 343 complaints since the riots. It has accepted 34 of the complaints.

It has settled six claims — four by Hindus and two by Muslims — and recovered around 746,000 rupees from 50 people.

Family 'traumatised'

Mr Khan said his family is traumatised and he fears his son will be arrested.

"My son is a minor. We were sleeping when the riots happened. We want justice," he told local news channels.

Their lawyer Ashhar Ali Warsi said in the report the tribunal had acted “arbitrarily” and against the country’s criminal jurisprudence.

Under Indian law, anyone under the age of 16 cannot be tried for a criminal offense in any Indian court and must be tried in a separate law for juveniles.

"The recoveries made within this act are criminal in nature. The tribunal has issued notice without any serious investigation of the role of the boy,” Mr Warsi said.

But the tribunal said because it is a civil case, the fine is justified.

"We are deciding cases of civil nature. If it was a criminal case, the child would have got the protection of the Juvenile Justice Act,” Prabhat Parashar, a member of the Tribunal, told The Times of India newspaper.

“Here, it's about fines not punishment. The money will be recovered from his parents because they are responsible for him.”

Updated: October 19, 2022, 5:45 PM