Reverse ‘love-jihad’ prompts VHP, Bajrang Dal to stoke fire in Garhwal

Communal violence is being fanned by the VHP and Bajrang Dal in the Garhwal Hills for the past several months

NH Photo by SMA Kazmi
NH Photo by SMA Kazmi
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SMA Kazmi

Communal tension in Rishikesh and Raiwala has led to the promulgation of prohibitory orders amidst clamour by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal to hang two Muslims accused of killing one Laxman Singh, a married man, who allegedly had an affair with the daughter of the accused.

The deceased’s body was found on railway tracks. Police said that Laxman Singh had been warned by the father of the woman earlier. But when he continued with the affair and reached the accused’s house at Raiwala on Thursday evening in an inebriated state, Islam and his son Salman beat him up resulting in his death. They threw the body on the railway tracks to create the impression that the deceased committed suicide.

But while this was a ‘routine crime’, Bajrang Dal and VHP forced the closure of shops at Raiwala and Rishikesh before attacking the shops and houses owned by Muslims at Raiwala on Thursday evening. Communal violence spread to the nearby Rishikesh town, where shops were shut down and shops owned by Muslims burnt down.

Zaheer Qureshi, a meat supplier, who has been in the business in Raiwala since 1962 had to flee with his family to Dehradun. His shop was ransacked and vehicles damaged. “We had no connection whatsoever with the murder accused but we were targeted since we are Muslims,” he said.

VHP and Bajrang Dal mobilised people to vandalise shops and ransack Muslim homes and demanded that the accused be hanged and outsiders be debarred from the area.

Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned to power in Uttarakhand with a massive majority in March this year, there have been sustained efforts to stoke the fire of communalism in the peaceful Garhwal hills.

There have been half a dozen incidents where members of the Muslim community have been targeted after a criminal act came to the fore in which Muslims were accused.

On October 2 and October 3, disturbances were reported from Pauri and Kotdwar after a daily wage worker was accused of raping a minor Nepali girl. A Muslim barber was apprehended at Kotdwar on similar charges amidst demands that ‘outsiders’ be debarred to work in the area.

Earlier in September, seven Muslim youths were charged with teasing girls and jailed in Chamba town of Tehri Garhwal district.

In the same month, two Muslim boys from Kirtinagar town in Tehri Garhwal were found walking with two girls belonging to the majority community in Dehradun by the police. The police promptly reported this to Kirtinagar, from where the girls hailed. A mob soon vandalised shops belonging to the Muslim boys while the boys were sent to jail.

In July, shops owned by Muslims at Satpuli town in Pauri Garhwal district were attacked after a Muslim boy made a Facebook post. In July again, Kashmiri traders were targeted in Mussoorie and given an ultimatum to pack up and leave the hill station.

One of the Kashmiri traders was accused of posting a video in praise of Pakistan Army, a charge he stoutly denied. But his mobile phone was sent to the forensic laboratory and findings are still awaited.

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