Uttarakhand red-flags ‘demographic change’, says one community forced to migrate

Uttarakhand government cited demographic changes in parts of the state to order police and administrative officers in districts to track what it called illegal land deals and outsiders who have criminal antecedents.
Uttarakhand ‘s Pushkar Singh Dhami government move to spotlight “demographic change” in parts of the state comes ahead of assembly elections early next year. (PTI)
Uttarakhand ‘s Pushkar Singh Dhami government move to spotlight “demographic change” in parts of the state comes ahead of assembly elections early next year. (PTI)
Published on Sep 24, 2021 11:07 PM IST
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ByNeeraj Santoshi & Kalyan Das

Dehradun: There has been an “unprecedented” increase in population in parts of Uttarakhand forcing “members of a certain community” to shift out, the Uttarakhand government said on Friday evening, ordering police and administrative officers in the hill state’s 13 districts to set up peace committees, track “illegal land deals” and prepare a list of outsiders with criminal antecedents.

“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 a certain community are forced to migrate from those areas. Also, there are possibilities that the communal harmony in those areas may be disturbed,” a government statement issued on Friday evening said.

It also said that there is a possibility of an exodus of people because of this demographic change.

The government order was finalised after a high-level meeting on Thursday, people familiar with the matter said.

The Congress alleged the government order was aimed at polarising the politics in the state on communal lines ahead of the assembly elections in early 2022. “They are trying to do what they have been doing in UP,” said Suryakant Dhasmana, the Congress’s state vice president.

Devendra Bhasin, vice president in the state BJP, countered him, insisting that the decision was aimed at securing national security since the hill state is a border state.

The police and the district administrators have been ordered to ensure regular meetings of the proposed district-level peace committees and “identify areas where antisocial elements are living”.

“A list of all such people should be made who have a criminal background and are living in Uttarakhand. A verification of their profession and domicile status should be done to make their records. The DMs (district magistrates) should also monitor the illegal land dealings in their districts and check whether someone is selling his land out of fear or pressure. If it is found so, then they should stop it and take strict action against those responsible for it”, the statement added.

The district authorities have also been told to identify foreign nationals who are using forged voter identity cards and other government ID proofs.

“I can only say that the police will take action as per the directions of the government,” director general of police (DGP) Ashok Kumar said, refusing to elaborate on the government order.

Former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Aloke B Lal, who retired as Uttarakhand’s Director-General (Prosecution), expressed his apprehension about involving the police.

“Demographic change, if any, should be checked by the revenue department and not the police…. It is not the job of police. However, if it is found that the crime rate has increased in areas due to the increase in population or demographic change, then the police could be involved. Similarly, police can be involved if it receives communication from their counterparts in other states about criminal elements from there settling in parts of Uttarakhand,” said Lal.

Soon after the government announcement, BJP leader from Rudraprayag Ajendra Ajay said the move was linked to his letter to chief minister PS Dhami about what he called “increasing land-jihad” in the hill areas.

“I had urged Dhami that concrete steps should be taken to check this land-jihad as people from the state are migrating to other states and people of a certain community from plains are migrating to hilly areas of the state, which is resulting in demographic changes here,” he said.

BJP’s Devendra Bhasin said it was 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, the land of Gods”, he said.

Congress’ Suryakant Dhasmana, however, dubbed it as an attempt to divert the attention of people. “This attempt at polarisation on communal lines is being made as the BJP government doesn’t have much to show to people in the election year. But such gimmicks won’t succeed in the state, where people of all communities have been living peacefully for centuries”, he said.

Dehradun based political analyst SMA Kazmi also opined that politics could have dictated the decision. “Why should BJP suddenly issue such an order that demographic changes are happening, attempts are being made to disturb communal harmony in the state. One of the BJP leaders had even written to the chief minister PS Dhami to take cognisance of the zameen-jihad (land-jihad) in the hilly areas of the state. All this is being done to demonise a particular community and gain politically from such an exercise”.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022