Tense situation in Uttarakhand town as traders body up in arms against ‘outsiders’

The local traders’ association ‘Prantiya Udyog Vyapaar Mandal-Dharchula’ has cancelled the registrations of 91 shops in Dharchula, mostly from the Muslim community, for apparently settling in the town over the last few years

March 19, 2024 03:06 am | Updated 05:40 am IST - NEW DELHI

A campaign led by a traders body in Dharchula town of Uttarakhand wherein locals are being asked not to give shops and houses on rent to “outsiders”, especially to Muslims, who they claim are settling in the town for the last few years, is flaring up tension in the area.

The local traders’ association ‘Prantiya Udyog Vyapaar Mandal-Dharchula’ has cancelled the registrations of 91 shops in Dharchula over the last 40 days.

Meeting with landlords

“Our organisation is now meeting all the landlords who have rented their shops and houses to ‘outsiders’, to create awareness that these people are not just a threat to the jobs and income opportunities but also to national security as our town is a border town,” said Mahesh Gabrayal, general secretary of the traders body, while talking to The Hindu.

He maintained that among the 91 shopkeepers, around 85 hail from the Muslim community while the others are Hindus. Most of these are people who have arrived in Dharchula after 2000, the year when Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh.

The traders body had also staged a protest in the town’s market last month, soon after an incident in which a man from a minority community had fled with two minor girls on February 1 this year. The police had arrested the man from Bareilly within two days. The accused was booked on charges of kidnapping and sexual assault of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

‘Triggered after elopement bid’

“The resentment towards a particular community was generated after an elopement incident,” said Manjit Singh, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Dharchula, who added that all the shopkeepers who are complaining of any harassment by the traders body are being given protection.

He added that multiple rounds of meetings are being organised to communicate with people belonging to all communities and the administration is ensuring that the law and order situation is not disturbed.

After the persuasion by the traders body, Mahavir Singh, a local, had written to police that he wants to get his house and shop, which he had rented to Inshaaz Ali and one other, vacated. The tenants are living in his place for the last 15 years.

The incident in Dharchula is a re-run of what had happened in Purola of Uttarkashi district in June 2023 where fringe organisations demanded a complete ban on the entry of Muslims in the town after an elopement bid involving a youth and a minor girl from different communities.

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