Muslim shopkeepers face closure in Uttarakhand town after abduction of minor girls

Dharchula Vyapar Sangh has cancelled the membership of 91 traders, mostly Muslims, and stopped them from opening their shops for three days

Representative image
Representative image


A local traders’ body has forced Muslim shopkeepers in Dharchula to down shutters and issued a call for their ouster from the Uttarakhand town after two minor girls were allegedly lured by a couple of men from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.

The Dharchula Vyapar Sangh has cancelled the membership of 91 traders, mostly Muslims, and its members have stopped them from opening their shops over the past three days. They have also asked landlords to oust such "outsiders".

But the administration said landlords in the town, about 90 km from district headquarters Pithoragarh, have not supported the trader organisation’s call.

The two traders from Bareilly, who were arrested in February for allegedly luring the minor girls, were charged under IPC sections 363 (kidnapping), 376 (sexual assault), 354 (use of criminal force to outrage modesty of woman) and the POCSO Act, Dharchula SHO Parvez Ali said.

"We have registered an FIR against elements who forced the shop owners to shut their shops," Pithoragarh district magistrate Reena Joshi said. "No unlawful activity will be allowed. Traders from outside doing business in town will be given full protection."

Dharchula SDM Manjit Singh said the traders whose membership has been cancelled are being provided full security by the district administration. The traders from outside Dharchula have kept their shops closed over the last three days but none of them have left the town, he said.

The Vyapar Sangh, which represents over 600 traders of the town, has decided to give membership only to traders from inside the state. "The traders coming from outside are involved in criminal activities that cannot be tolerated in this sensitive border town," secretary of the traders' association Mahesh Garbiyal said.

Though the girls were rescued and the accused arrested soon after the incident, tension has been brewing against the traders from outside doing business in the town.

A similar situation at Purola in Uttarkashi district had led to the imposition of section 144 CrPC in June last year, following continued tension sparked by a reported abortive attempt to abduct a minor Hindu girl by two men, including a Muslim.

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