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After mob fury and ouster threat, Muslim traders shut shops at Ghansali in Uttarakhand

Ghansali, a town of about 7,000 people, has not earlier reported communal tension. The market where the incident happened has about 300 shops, including about 30 owned by Muslim traders, mostly from Uttar Pradesh. About 80 Muslims live in the market.

dehradun Updated: Jul 31, 2018 21:22 IST
Kalyan Das
Kalyan Das
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand,Muslim traders,Shut shops
Police conduct a flag march after at Ghansali in Uttarkhand’s Tehri Garhwal district. A mob of nearly 250 people thrashed 18-year-old Azad Alvi on Monday after he was caught with a minor Hindus girl inside a hotel in Ghansali town market, and paraded him with a garland of shoes around his neck. They also ransacked 13 shops of Muslim traders in the market.(HT Photo)

Muslim traders shut their shops in fear at Ghansali town in Uttarkhand’s Tehri Garhwal district on Tuesday, a day after a youth from their community was caught with a Hindu minor girl at a hotel, triggering mob fury.

A mob of nearly 250 people thrashed 18-year-old Azad Alvi on Monday after he was caught with the minor girl inside the hotel in Ghansali town market, and paraded him with a garland of shoes around his neck, police said. Policemen rescued Alvi and took him to the police station.

The mob also ransacked 13 shops of Muslim traders in the market, police said. Some Hindu traders held a meeting on Tuesday and asked the “outsider” Muslim shop owners to leave the market.

“We are scared; we never expected such an incident in the area, which happened for the first time. Don’t know if we would be able to carry out our business as usual,” said Zulfikar Mansuri from Bijnour district of UP. He has been running a furniture shop in Ghansali market for the last 13 years. He said his shop was damaged by the mob.

“I was informed about the incident by some of my fellow Hindu traders who always helped me. After yesterday’s incident, we are in fear as we have heard that some people have demanded our ouster from the area,” he said, adding that his landlord asked him to vacate the rented shop.

Israr Ahmed from Bijnour has been running a cloth shop in the market for the last 23 years. “We want the accused to be punished for what he has done. We are not with him. But we are feeling tensed after some people asked us to shut down our business,” said Ahmed who kept his shop closed on Tuesday. “How can we shut our business which is our source of income? We have never indulged in any unlawful activities.”

Ghansali, a town of about 7,000 people, has not earlier reported communal tension. The market where the incident happened has about 300 shops, including about 30 owned by Muslim traders, mostly from Uttar Pradesh. About 80 Muslims live in the market.

Alvi, who hails from Bijnour, was living in the Ghansali market with his family on a rented house and running a barber shop. “Alvi has been booked for rape as the girl was a minor. Also, police have booked about 50 unidentified people for ransacking and damaging shops of Muslim traders,” said Kishan Tamta, station house officer of Ghansali police station.

The girl belonging to a nearby village was handed over to her parents, who were called to the police station.

“We don’t want Muslims to come from outside and settle in our area,” said Saheb Singh Komain, a Hindu trader and right-wing leader. “There are at least 80-90 Muslim individuals living here. Most of them are hair-dressers or vegetable sellers. Some of them, like Alvi, have been trying to trap innocent Hindu girls.”

He added, “A few months ago, Alvi’s uncle was nabbed in a molestation case. We will not tolerate such incidents; we have warned landlords renting out their places to outsider Muslims.”

Ghansali sub-divisional officer DR Chouhan said, “The situation is under control. Police force has been deployed. We have assured Muslim traders of security and asked them to open their shops without dear.”

In the past couple of years, communal tensions erupted in many hill areas. In July last year, tension prevailed in Satpuli town of Pauri Garhwal district after a Muslim boy allegedly posted an objectionable post of Kedarnath shrine on Facebook. Communal tension erupted in Mussoorie last year after a Kashmiri trader allegedly shared a Pakistani patriotic song on social media.

Two constables brave mob to rescue youth

Police constables Rakesh Laithwal and Praveen Saini braved the mob at Ghansali to rescue Alvi. “When we reached the spot, we saw an angry mob of more than 250 people who were thrashing the youth and were thirsty for his blood,” Laithwal said over the phone.

“The mob would have killed him if we didn’t save him on time. I and Saini after sensing trouble for the youth, decided to create a ring with our arms by putting him in between. We took him on foot like that for about 600m by taking blows on ourselves.”

Laithwal said: “As we were moving towards the police station with him, the mob ran behind us shouting like we were in a big fair in which people run behind some sort of entertainer. But we didn’t budge and saved the youth to bring him to police station.”

Ghansali station house officer Kishan Tamta admired the courage of the two constables and said: “The story would have been different had the two have not reached the spot on time. The youth, who was booked by police for rape, is fine and have not complained of any hidden or major injury.”

First Published: Jul 31, 2018 21:21 IST