We are in fear, say Muslim traders in Uttarakhand’s Ghansali after mob violence
Muslim traders in Ghansali town of Uttarakhand’s Tehri Garhwal district said on Wednesday they are wary of opening their shops, two days after a man from their community was beaten up by a mob when he was found with a minor Hindu girl, sparking calls for their ouster.
Eighteen-year-old Azad Alvi, who has now been booked on rape charges, was thrashed by nearly 250 people on Monday after he was caught with the girl inside a hotel in Ghansali town market. He was paraded with a garland of shoes around his neck before being rescued by the police.
The mob also ransacked 13 shops belonging to Muslim traders in the market, police said.
“We are not going to open our shops until we are fully sure that such incidents won’t happen again, but it seems unlikely. We are definitely in fear,” Ehsan Mansuri, who belongs to Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh and runs four shops in the area since the last 20 years.
“We are also not speaking to anyone in the market except a couple of fellow Hindu traders who are our friends. They are the ones who are informing us about the situation while we are at our home in Bijnor,” Mansuri added.
Ghansali, a town of about 7,000 people, has not witnessed communal tension in the past. The market where the incident happened has about 300 shops and 30 of them are owned by Muslim traders, mostly from Uttar Pradesh. About 80 Muslims live in the market.
Some Hindu traders held a meeting on Tuesday and asked “outsider” Muslim shop owners to leave the market. Many members of the local Hindu community and right-wing leaders have also asked the landlords to tell their Muslim tenants to vacate their property.
“Yes, we have been asked by our landlord to vacate the shop which we took on rent to run our business. But how can we vacate it as we are running our business here since the last at least 15 years. It is not possible. We would be destroyed,” Israr Ahmed, who has a furniture shop in the area, said.
He said Muslim traders are worried and will not be able to do their business normally if they open the shops.
“We are afraid, next time the tension would be in much bigger form,” Ahmed said.
The local administration, however, claimed the situation is under control and assured the Muslim traders to do their business without fear.
“To maintain the law and order in the area, a police force was deployed on Tuesday which would continue on Wednesday as well,” Ghansali’s sub-divisional magistrate DR Chouhan said.
“On Tuesday, we spoke to some of the Muslim traders in the area and have assured them of security if there is any problem. They can run their business freely,” Chouhan added.
After Monday’s incident in Ghansali, a market in the nearby small town of Chamiyala, about 15km away, was shut on Tuesday over fears that the violence might spread.
“The people here can sense the tension in the air. What happened on Monday was not good as this area has no history of communal tension ever. The repetition of it would be a disaster for this peaceful area,” Vijay Rawat, an owner of a news agency and photocopy shop in Chamiyala market, said.
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