Muslims in Uttarakhand forced to live on a razor’s edge   

Muslims in Uttarakhand, barely 13 percent of the population, live in perpetual fear of mob violence,clueless when, why or how they will be targeted

Muslims in Uttarakhand forced to live  on a razor’s edge   
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SMA Kazmi

After a man belonging to the minority community was arrested on July 14 for allegedly teasing a girl in Joshimath, as part of a familiar pattern mobs were allowed to go on the rampage and ransack a large number of shops and vends owned by people from the minority community.

There has been a spurt in such mob violence since 2017, when a BJP Government was formed in the state. Any alleged crime committed by any member of the miniscule minority community— be it a murder or an affair—has been provocation enough for indiscriminate violence with police as onlookers.

The communal virus has spread throughout the state. BJP MLA Mahendra Bhatt from Badrinath had advised people in a facebook post not to buy vegetables from ‘Najibabad’ but buy vegetables from farmers of Uttarakhand only.

People should patronise only those barber shops which has parts of the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ scrolled outside. A majority of the barber shops in the state even in Garhwal and Kumoan hills are owned by Muslims from Western Uttar Pradesh.

Uttarakhand has a population of just over 10 millions and Muslims number less than 1.4 million in the state. But the rising incidence of attacks on Muslim establishments and the inaction of the police in booking the culprits have forced the minority population to live in perpetual fear.

Even rumours spread on social media and fake news have led to mob violence. And while the police did register cases against unknown people, nobody was either booked or prosecuted.

Muslim shops and homes from Rishikesh to Haridwar had been attacked following a murder at Raiwala. Seven Muslim youth were arrested for allegedly teasing girls in Chamba and a bandh call shut down the bazaar there. Muslim shops in Kirtinagar were vandalized after reports claimed that two Muslim boys from Kirtinagar were seen in Dehradun with Hindu women. Both the boys were sent to jail.

Muslim shops again bore the brunt of vandalism in Satpuli town following an allegedly provocative facebook post by someone. The town again witnessed mob violence after a Muslim was accused of having unnatural sex with a cow. Kashmiri traders were given an ultimatum and asked to leave Mussorie following alleged pro-Pakistan slogan at a cricket match. The local administration found the allegation to be unfounded and the issue was sorted out.

Mob violence had again erupted in Ghansali town following reports that a Hindu girl had eloped with a Muslim boy and the couple were found in a hotel. All Muslims were asked to leave the town. Based on a baseles rumour of the rape of a minor girl, shops belonging to Muslims were set on fire in Agastyamuni town of Rudraprayag. The situation was brought under control only after the District magistrate intervened and declared that there was no basis to the rumour.

Police and the Minority Commissions at the Centre and in the state have not been able to remove distrust and misgivings between communities. Nor have they been able to take confidence building measures to instil some sense of security in the demoralized minority community.

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