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Posters asking Muslim traders to leave surface in Uttarakhand

By, Dehradun
Jun 06, 2023 06:12 AM IST

According to people aware of the matter, the Purola main market roughly consists of 650-700 shops and of these, around 30-40 are run by the Muslims.

Posters threatening Muslim traders to shut shops by June 15 surfaced in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi town on Monday, amid ongoing tensions over an alleged abduction attempt on a 14-year-old girl by two men, including one from the minority community, last month, police said.

The posters surfaced two days after members of right wing outfits held protests in Barkot (HT)

Both the men – Ubed Khan (24), a local shopkeeper, and Jitender Saini (23), a motorcycle mechanic – were arrested on May 27 for the alleged abduction attempt. Local residents alleged it was a case of ‘love jihad’ – a term used by right-wing groups to describe an alleged conspiracy by Muslim men to woo and seduce Hindu women, although courts and the Union government do not officially recognise it.

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The posters, in Uttarkashi’s Purola main market, asked Muslim traders to vacate their shops before a mahapanchayat on June 15.

“Love jihadiyon ko suchit kia jata hai ki dinak June 15, 2023 ko hone wali mahapanchayat hone se purv apni dukanein khali kar de. Yadi tumhae dwara aisa nahi kia jata, toh wakt par nirbhar karega (Love jihadists are informed that they should vacate the shops prior to a mahapanchayat on June 15. If they don’t, it (consequences) will depend on time),” the poster, which calls for ‘Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan’ (campaign for protection of land) said.

The posters surfaced two days after members of right wing outfits held protests in Barkot and reportedly attacked shops and houses belonging to Muslims. Police said efforts are on to identify those behind the violence.

Police also said the posters were removed on Monday itself and a probe is underway to identify the people who pasted them. “We have removed these posters andare identifying the anti-social elements who pasted them,” Uttarkashi superintendent of police (SP) Arpan Yaduvanshi said.

According to people aware of the matter, the Purola main market roughly consists of 650-700 shops and of these, around 30-40 are run by the Muslims.

A local Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader said the posters were pasted by local residents.

“These posters were put up by local residents who want people from a particular community to leave the town to ensure peace and communal harmony. They came here on the pretext of doing business but are targeting girls and women from our community,” VHP leader Virender Rana said.

The ongoing tension has prompted Muslims to keep their shops shut and, in some cases, even flee the district.

“We are living in constant fear and cannot return to Purola in such an atmosphere. If they want us to leave the hills, authorities should compensate us for the property owned by us,” Saleem (35), who runs a garment shop in Purola and has fled to his brother’s house in Dehradun in the wake of the tension, said.

Another 40-year-old Muslim shopkeeper in the market, who did not wish to be identified, said: “We condemn the abduction bid and demand strict action against the culprits. We don’t support people who indulge in criminal and illegal activities.”

On Monday, a few Muslim families handed over a memorandum to Purolo sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), highlighting the financial crisis they are facing and seeking security to reopen businesses. The memorandum, seen by HT, also said the administration will be held responsible if anything untoward happens to the Muslims.

“The law and order situation is under control. We are keeping an eye on developments to ensure peace and harmony in the town,” SDM Devanand Sharma said.

Tension gripped Uttarkashi on May 26 when the two men allegedly attempted to abduct the minor. Police said the accused had fled after their abduction bid failed and were arrested the next day from Hudoli village.

On May 29, a protest march in Purola turned violent after some of the agitators attacked shops and establishments belonging to the Muslims. A similar protest was held on Saturday, under the banner of Yamuna Ghati Hindu Jagriti Sangathan. Nearly 900 people took part in the stir.

The protesters also handed over a memorandum to the SDM, seeking verification of people coming from outside for doing business in the town. “In the garb of doing businesses in the town, some people from a particular community have been indulging in immoral activities… thereby, polluting the atmosphere,” the memorandum in Hindi, seen by HT, said. Several shops run by the Muslims have remained shut since May 29.

“A verification drive of all Muslim traders and shopkeepers should be conducted. Those who are delinquent types shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the town. Others can operate freely,” Brij Mohan Chauhan, president, Purola vyapar mandal, said.

Durgeshwar Lal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Purola, said he will discuss the matter with chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

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