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Behind surge in communal incidents in Uttarakhand, politically-aligned religious groups

dehradun Updated: Oct 07, 2017 11:50 IST
Anuapm Trivedi
Anuapm Trivedi
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand,Satpuli,Pauri Garhwal

BJP President Amit Shah with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and other leaders at a party meeting in Dehradun on September 19.(PTI)

In July this year, Uttarakhand witnessed communal tension in Satpuli town of Pauri Garhwal, a district that had no past history of religious clash. In the following months at least three more incidents in other towns of the district involving Hindus and Muslims were reported.

The Raiwala incident is the latest in the list. In all the incidents, it was politically aligned religious groups that played pivotal role in fanning the tension.

Here’s how the things unfolded. Satpuli first witnessed communal tension after some right-wing organisations vandalised a vegetable shop belonging to family of a minor boy who had allegedly posted an ‘offensive’ picture of the Kedarnath shrine on Facebook. Days later, communal tension again gripped after a man from a minority community was allegedly caught during an act of bestiality in a cowshed. Communal fire again raged after a Muslim teacher was held for molesting a minor in Kotdwar.

Being a “developing” state Uttarakhand has remained a preferred choice among people from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh to take up trading activities. For instance Md Anjum, a motor mechanic in Dehradun who shifted his base from Muzzafarnagar, says, “Being a developing state, Uttarakhand offers lots of opportunities in the unskilled sector”. His two cousins and at least six more relatives have shifted to Doon. Similarly traders, mostly Muslims, in the unskilled sector have moved to hills, Haridwar and many such places.

“Doing business is one thing and getting involved in nefarious activities is another and we don’t approve this,” says Sanjay (who goes by first name), secretary Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right wing organization. Ashu Chauhan associated with Bajrang Dal, another right wing organization, has similar thoughts.

“See the illegal meat shops. Who are running them?” he asks while accepting that after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power in the state, the right wing organizations are marching ahead.

Jay Singh Rawat a political commentator based in Dehradun says the religious tensions could make Uttarakhand a ‘dangerous place’.

“Criminals should not been seen from the political glasses. The criminals are similar and they should be treated as per the law. Why bring religion into it,” he adds.

State BJP president Ajay Bhatt denies that there is a surge in religious tensions after his party’s government was voted to power. Bhatt, however, adds that law should take its own course and “strict police vigil is needed to check the credentials of those coming to Uttarakhand in search of business”.

The opposition Congress brushes aside the BJP claims. Senior party leader Mathura Dutt Joshi says the religious polarization had helped BJP in past and “BJP it seems want to reap political benefits till the next general elections”.

Bhatt on Friday defended Assembly Speaker Prem Chandra Agarwal going to police station in Raiwala on Thursday following the death of a Hindu man. Bhatt said besides being a Speaker, Agarwal is also a party legislator and there are times when “one has to keep aside protocol and oblige voters whom he represents”.

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 11:44 IST