Harish Rawat, Dasmana dare Amit Shah to prove his allegation of highways blocked for Namaz

Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat wants Home Minister Amit Shah to prove that highways and roads were blocked by Congress government in the state for offering Friday prayers

Amit Shah (Social Media)
Amit Shah (Social Media)

Sanjukta Basu

Home Minister Amit Shah, speaking at the inauguration of ‘Ghasiyari Kalyan Yojna’ scheme in Uttarakhand on Friday, said, “Once when I came here during the Congress government, my fleet of cars was stopped. People said it was Friday. What was special about Friday, I asked. They said on Fridays the government had permitted to close the highways for namaz. Congress even declared a holiday to offer namaz,” Shah declared.

Former chief minister and Congress leader Harish Rawat has challenged Amit Shah to show evidence in support of his claim. “Shah is the Union Home Minister and BJP has had three Chief Ministers in the state – a non-performer, a night watchman and a pinch hitter. He can use the entire machinery to dig out the file where I had passed the order for a holiday on Friday or allowed namaz on the road," Rawat said.

With three chief ministers in the last four and a half years, he added, BJP had lost the plot.

“Amit Shah is speaking rubbish, you can quote me on that,” says Surya Kant Dasmana, Vice President of the Uttarakhand Congress. “They do not have any other issue to speak of and are using their only Brahmastra, Hindu-Muslim polarization, but it will not work. People have now woken up and understood BJP’s trick."

In 2017, recalled Dasmana, Prime Minister Modi had addressed more than half a dozen rallies in Uttarakhand and appealed to people to vote for a double engine government. He made tall promises of farmer’s loan waiver, reduction in unemployment, inflation and a Lokayukt within 100 days. But today the unemployment rate is 22.9% which is six times higher than what it was in 2017.

"There is a surgical strike on the kitchen with Inflation in the state higher than the national average and prices of every food item, edible oil etc are skyrocketing. More than 21 farmers have committed suicide. The Lokayukta has still not seen the light of the day in four and a half years. It is stuck at a select committee. People have suffered during the Covid pandemic as they could not get medical aid, oxygen etc. and died without treatment. The official figure may be at 7,000 but in truth, more than 50,000 people have died. The people of Uttarakhand will remember these when the election comes,” Dasmana said.

Dasmana added that the Congress party is fully prepared for the elections and is confident of securing a full majority. “You can see the signs already. People are coming back to the party,” he said referring to Yashpal Arya who quit BJP to return to Congress along with his MLA son Sanjeev Arya, a move seen as a setback for the ruling BJP.

Syed Kazmi, a journalist says, “I cannot recall when Amit Shah's carcade was stopped for namaz and which highway was blocked for Friday prayers. I am a Muslim living in Dehradun for over two decades, I cannot think of any main road, let alone a highway, that was ever blocked any time for Friday namaz. Surely Shah was not driving through narrow lanes? Was he?"

Muslim population in Uttarakhand is very low and only a handful of Muslims get together for Friday prayers., he informed.

Only on two days of the year, on the festival of Eid, there could be a large gathering causing roadblocks, but all such activities are carried out with prior permission and security and traffic arrangements, he added.

But then such special arrangements are made for many other religious activities. " Now that Dhanteras and Diwali are here, we are already getting traffic alerts about diversions, roadblocks, restrictions in movement to avoid traffic jams and so on. In the absence of specific details as to which route did Amit Shah take, and on what date, it can only be viewed as a Hindu-Muslim agenda setting,” he went on to add.

Over the past few months, Hindu-Muslim tension have been stoked in Uttarakhand with BJP leaders raising polarizing issues like “Land Jihad”, “Love Jihad” etc which plays on negative stereotyping and fear-mongering against the Muslim community.

Right-wing leader Darshan Bharti, who heads the NGO Uttarakhand Raksha Abhiyan, and Ajendra Ajay, a senior BJP leader and former media adviser to the Uttarakhand government, have both written letters to the state government alleging “shift in demography” in the state and “illegal mosque construction on government land.

The BJP government in the state has directed district magistrates and SSPs to identify outsiders living in the state, and set up committees to resolve “communal issues” that have allegedly arisen with the “rise in population of a community”, read a media report.

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