Tensions escalate in Uttarakhand after alleged abduction bid of a minor

One of the two accused is from the minority community in the area, and right-wing majoritarian groups are using this as an excuse to nudge Muslim-owned shops out of business

June 06, 2023 10:35 pm | Updated June 07, 2023 12:48 am IST - New Delhi

Members of Bhairav Sena Sangathan burn an effigy during a protest against the increasing cases of ‘Love Jihad’ in Uttarakhand on June 04, 2023.

Members of Bhairav Sena Sangathan burn an effigy during a protest against the increasing cases of ‘Love Jihad’ in Uttarakhand on June 04, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

The police in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand, are working to ensure law and order is maintained in the area that is witnessing communal tension after an alleged abduction bid of a minor girl.

On May 26, two youths, one Hindu, the other Muslim, were allegedly involved in the incident. An FIR was lodged against them under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, on the complaint of the girl’s family, and they were sent to jail the same day.

However, Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan, a right-wing group has allegedly pasted posters across the district asking Muslims, the minority in the area, to leave town. They will also be holding a mahapanchayat on June 15. Darshan Bharti, the founder, denied pasting posters, but said the call for the mahapanchayat was from them. However, he said, “I am meeting people across town and urging them not to give their houses and shops on rent to people from the Muslim community. Almost 50% of them agreed with me,” said Mr. Bharti, who calls himself Swami.

The Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan is the same group that had held a State-wide protest against the wedding of Pauri Garhwal’s BJP leader Yashpal Rawat’s daughter to a Muslim man last month, leading to the cancellation of the celebration.

Muslim traders were allegedly forced to keep their shops shut, hampering business. Some unidentified people have also put a cross mark outside shops run and owned by the community, and protests were organised urging people to boycott them. The protests, which started from Purola block, where the incident took place, has now also spread to other areas such as Barkot and Chinyalisaur, and is supported by other right-wing organisations like the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Bhairav Sena.

V. Murugesan, Additional Director General of Police (ADG), Law and Order (L&O), said that an alert had been issued in the district. “The final call on the mahapanchyat will be taken by the district administration but currently, the situation is under control,” he said.

The police, on June 6, got the posters removed. Representatives of the shops forced to shut also met the sub-divisional magistrate (Barkot) Devanand Sharma and requested the administration for help. An FIR was filed against the unidentified men for disturbing the peace of the town, famous for its Gangotri and Yamunotri temples, a part of the Char Dham Yatra.

Shamim Ali (name changed to protect identity), a hairdresser from Purola town, has been forced to shut his shop since May 27. He has now moved to his sister’s house in Vikas Nagar. Originally from Saharanpur district, Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Ali has been running his business in Uttarkashi for four decades now. “Who knew that I would have to leave everything behind. How can they call all Muslims bad because of just one incident?” he said.

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