Opposition expresses ‘serious concerns’ over Uttarakhand govt order on ‘demographic change’
Bharatiya Janata Party-led Uttarakhand government’s order to form district-level committees to check on “demographic changes” in certain areas has resulted in a political storm in the state ahead of the next year’s state assembly elections. Both the Opposition parties, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), are now accusing the BJP of “communal politics” ahead of next year’s polls.
In an official statement issued on Friday, the government “expressing serious concerns” over demographic changes in certain areas of Uttarakhand and “attempts being made to vitiate communal harmony in state”, stated that it had directed the state director general of police, all district magistrates and senior superintendents of police to constitute district-level committees, prepare a list of “outsiders” with criminal background involved in “illegal land deals.”
The statement stated that “due to unprecedented rise in population in certain areas of the state, the demography of those areas has been majorly affected. And due to this demographic change, members of certain communities are forced to migrate from those areas. Also, there are possibilities that the communal harmony in those areas may be disturbed.”
Congress party has expressed “serious concerns” over the government’s move. Its national general secretary and former chief minister Harish Rawat advocated a study on the “rate of population rise” to bring a solution to issues of illiteracy, malnourishment and others however, cautioned against “targetting a particular community under its garb.”
“In the states of southern India, the rate of population growth is lower than the national one. But the rate is high in states where issues like illiteracy and malnourishment are more, especially in the poor class irrespective of the religion.”
“If the government takes appropriate steps to control this, then we have no objection to that. But if it is done to target any particular community and area, then it is a matter of serious concern. And, if it is done to take some political benefit using the administration, then the seriousness of the matter increases more. We are against it,” said Rawat who is also the president of the party’s election campaign committee in the state.
The AAP, which is the new entrant in the state assembly elections in Uttarakhand, meanwhile, accused the BJP of “working on the lines of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)”
Party’s working president and a retired inspector general from Uttarakhand police, Anantram Chauhan, while attacking the government said, “The move is nothing but divisive politics by ruling BJP ahead of the upcoming assembly elections.”
“Every citizen has a right to live anywhere in the country... It’s his fundamental right. But if the government is targeting one community with this move by terming them outsiders, it should remember that many people of Uttarakhand live in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai. With such a move, it is following the footsteps of MNS which does the politics of Maharashtrawad targetting people of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh which is not at all appreciable,” said Chauhan.
Chauhan also blamed both BJP and Congress for the “misgovernance in the state for the last 21 years.”
“If there is a situation where the crime has increased due to settling of criminal elements in the state, then for that only BJP and Congress is responsible which ruled the state by taking turns since its formation. It is all because of their misgovernance. Once, AAP comes to power, the situation will be improved,” said Chauhan adding that, “The move is completely election-centric.”
Political experts too termed it a politically motivated step by the government ahead of assembly elections.
“The order has been given by the government only months before the state assembly elections. It simply signifies that the BJP wants to take political benefit by playing the communal card on the party’s national agenda. It is being done to demonise one community and polarise the society before the polls,” said political analyst SMA Kazmi.
The BJP, meanwhile, refuted the allegations and termed it a step needed for national security.
“It is a good decision to identify outsiders and figure out what they are up to. This exercise is meant to ensure such elements are identified and unable to disturb the communal harmony of Dev-Bhoomi,” said party state vice president Devendra Bhasin.
He added, “Also, the order is also for the people of other countries living illegally in Uttarakhand after getting forged voter ID cards and other government ID proofs. Being a border state, the step is a much needed one... It is not at all a political move.”