Fresh Purola diktat: No male barber to touch female customers, Islamophobia at its’ peak in Uttarakhand

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Fresh Purola diktat: No male barber to touch female customers, Islamophobia at its’ peak in Uttarakhand


Dehradun, June 26

After the attempts to drive out Muslims from Purola town of Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand by local Traders’s body having the backing right wing Hindu organisations following charges against two youth-one a Muslim and another a Hindu of trying to abduct a minor local girl last, another edict has been passed that male barber would neither cut the hair of females customers nor do any facial or any other beauty treatment.

Following the Purola Incident last month, the right wing organisations had given threats and warnings to Muslims to leave the city by June 15 accusing them of indulging in ‘Love Jehad’, a term coined by ‘Sangh Parivar’ meaning an organised attempt by Muslims to lure Hindu girls to Islam. Out of 40 Muslim families at Purola 14 of them had left the town when posters were pasted on their shops and some of them were marked with black cross mark, a reminder of Nazi era Germany. A ‘Mahapanchayat’ was called by right wing Hindu organisations on June 15 and a similar ‘Mahapanchayat’ was called by Muslims at Dehradun on June 18. However, following the intervention of Nainital High court,  both these ‘Mahapanchayats’ were called off. The Uttarkashi district administration had imposed section 144 of the IPC to disallow any gathering at Purola while the Muslims were persuaded to follow suit. Since last week, the life came to normal with most of the Muslims opened their shops amidst tight security arrangement. Some of  them were those who had left the town after the incident.

5. A Muslim shopkeeper in Purola vacating his shops following threats on june 7,2023.

Interestingly, at a meeting held by local police station incharge Ashok Chakravarty with local ‘Vyapar Mandal’ it has been decided that no male barber will entertain any female customer and the local barbers and beauty salon owners have to employ female staff for the purpose. It is believed that the decision has been taken to target Muslim barbers doing business in the town.  It was also decided that no outside ‘Pheriwala’, people selling goods from door to door would be allowed in the town.

The Purola episode came to an end, with reports about uncle of the minor girl who was allegedly being abducted saying that it was ‘conspiracy’ to malign the entire Muslim community hatched by some vested interest and he was forced to sign the complaint given to the police. But the targeting of the Muslims continued even after June 15.

A Muslim father-son duo were arrested from Srinagar on June 20,2023 on the charges of forcing a girl to convert under the recently enacted Religious Freedom act of the state. It was charged that the father-son duo had been pressuring the girl who was friendly with the son to convert to Islam. Interestingly, the same day, a Muslim who had gone with his Hindu friend as a tourist to Uattrkashi was beaten up for allegedly spitting in the holy Ganges river.

6. A poster put up on one of the shops owned by a Muslim to leave by June 15,2023.

On June 21, participating in the International yoga day celebrations, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced that a decisive ‘battle’ will be fought against ‘Love Jehad’ and ‘Land Jehad’ in the state.

A video of a Muslim family being shooed away from near the bathing ghats at ganga in Haridwar also went viral in the mid June.

Members of the Muslim community on Thursday held a demonstration at Haldwani on june 22, 2023e alleging that their shops at Kamaluaganja area on the outskirts of the city  were forcibly closed and that they were being asked to leave or face consequences.

The protesters also submitted a memorandum to the senior superintendent of police seeking protection for the minorities and demanded the release of a man accused of beastility.

They claimed that their shops in the Buddha Park area on the outskirts of the town had been targeted over the past week.

They also said that one Nafis was arrested on June 14 as some local people accused him of indulging in beastlity. They claimed Nafis’s head was shaved and he was beaten up by the people.

The police booked Nafis under the IPC and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. He was later arrested. The incident had triggered tension in Kamaluaganja area under the Mukhani police station where people allegedly damaged some shops belonging to the Muslim community and also forced their closure.

About 50-60 unnamed people have been booked under different sections of the IPC, including 147 (rioting), 355 (assault) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), in connection with the vandalism, police officials in Haldwani and Nainital said, adding that no arrests have been made.

It has also been a season of ‘Islamophobia’ with a vigour as the state BJP government and its’ ‘Sangh Parivar’ affiliates have attempted to malign and vilify the minority Muslim community on trivial pretexts.

From ‘Mazar Jehad’ started by the state government against graves of Muslim saints all over the state, ‘Love Jehad’ and demographic changes and even invasion by Rohingya Muslims are invoked to target the minority community. Every other day, some ruckus is created on these lines. The marriage of daughter of a BJP leader from Pauri Garhwal to a Muslim boy with mutual consent also gave enough ammunition to Hindu right wingers to cry foul about ‘Love Jehad’ and forcing cancellation of marriage scheduled to be held on May 28.

The latest episode was that of Purola town of Uttarkashi district on May 28 where 42 Muslim shopkeepers were forced to flee following demonstrations by locals giving threats and ultimatums to ‘Outsiders’ to quit. This happened following two boys namely Obaid, a Muslim and another Jitender Saini were caught by locals with a ninth class local girl.

The locals mobilised by RSS affiliates alleged that it was a case of ‘love jehad” as the duo were taking the girl to Vikasnagar for marriage. The boys were handed over to the police but such a frenzy was created by organising demonstrations with drum beats and panchayats and diktats passed to oust the ‘Outsiders’.

Posters appeared on the shops owned by minority community members to vacate and leave before June 15, 2023 in Purola. The posters put up on behalf of “Devbhoomi  Raksha Abhiyan” warned ‘Love Jehadis’ to vacate their shops by June 15 when a ‘Mahapnchayat’ on the issue is called by Hindu outfits and in case they fail to do so,it will then depend on the time. The shops were also marked with crosses with black paint reminding of the Nazi Germany days. The sign boards of some the shops owned by Muslims were also broken and removed. Following threats, most of the Muslim shopkeepers doing small time businesses left the town on May 30.

The shop owners had asked their Muslim tenants to vacate their premises on the reported persuasion of Swami Darshan Bharati, a right wing Hindu leader who had been vocal against the minority community. The local police have registered cases against those who pasted posters and police was deployed in the town.

In similar incident in Gauchar town of Rudraprayag district, another Muslim from Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh who was trying to flee with a local girl was caught leading to protests and demonstrations by Hindu right wing bodies against “love Jehad”. The muslim boy has been booked and sent to jail.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has said that none would be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere of Uttarakhand and ‘Love Jehad’ an “Land Jehad’ would not be tolerated in Uttarakhand.

In Piran Kaliyar town of Haridwar district, members of Hindu organisations took exception to alleged friendly relationship between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy on June 1 and created ruckus.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its’ affiliate ‘Sangh Parivar’ has already embarked on its time tested strategy of spreading ‘islamophobia’ in the hill state of Uttarakhand ahead of the coming Lok Sabha elections to be held next year.

3. Marriage card of daughter of BJP leader Yashpal Benam with a Muslim boy which created a furore in Uttarakhand.

Interestingly, a hate video of a famous cardiologist of Dehradun who is a ‘Sangh Parivar’ worker is being circulated in which the doctor is predicting that Uttarakhand would become another “Kashmir” in next five years. He even claimed that mosques have come up at Kedarnath and Badrinath, the famous Hindu pilgrimage places and thousands of Rohingya Muslims have settled in Dehradun. No action by state government has been initiated against such blatant hate mongering.

The ruling BJP had already successfully tested the “Gujarat” formula of creating scare of Muslims amongst the upper caste dominated Hindu majority state of Uttarakhand  by reversing the poll trends and winning the 2022 state assembly elections in March 2022.

The catch word this time is “Mazar jehad” which is coined none less than the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, the main beneficiary of the party’s poll strategy in the assembly polls last year. The issues of ‘Love Jehad’, changes in the demography of the state due to ‘invasion’ of Muslims also invoked frequently.

Since the announcement by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, the forest department and the administration had demolished more than 325 ‘mazars’ some more than a century old in the forest and public land in the past one month. Some Hindu temples were also removed but many of the famous Hindu shrines located in the forest remain intact. The Nainital high court has also denied any relief to the encroachers of public land.

“ We are not against anyone but encraochments in the name of ‘Mazars’ or anything else will not be allowed. We will not allow ‘land jehad’ to  prosper. We believe in the law, we will not allow anyone’s appeasement,” Chief minister Pushkar singh Dhami  had announced.

In the past three months, stories were being circulated in the plaint media and social media about sprouting of illegal ‘mazars’ and colonies of Muslims in the plain areas of the state. Even some of the national television channels close to the ruling dispensation started running campaigns on “Land Jehad’ through illegal ‘mazars’ in the state.

It was alleged that more than one thousand illegal ‘mazars’ have come up and to malign the Congress party it was charged that these came up during the Congress regime 2004. Interestingly, the main opposition Congress party has completely failed to comprehend and respond to the BJP strategy. The Congress party leaders including those from the state are scared of taking any stand on anything to do with Muslims lest they be painted as pro-Muslims. Even the Congress leaders are scared to comment on Purola incidents.

A ‘Mazar’ being demolished in Uttarakhand.

Interestingly,  on the other hand, the BJP and ‘Sangh Parivar’ have successfully carried the ‘Islamophobic’ campaign on the social media and on the ground.

None in the main opposition Congress has asked questions about the allegations of illegal ‘Mazars’ and ‘Madarassas’ raised by the Chief Minister Dhami. Nobody from the Congress has asked that since the BJP is ruling the state since March 2017,why illegal ‘mazars’ came up or if they were there before that what action they took in the past six years?

The BJP which had been having its back to the wall on number of issues concerning the state including the heinous murder of Ankita Bhandari by son of a senior RSS functionary, question paper leaks of different recruitment examinations and involvement of BJP leaders in those, rising unemployment and lathi charge on unemployed youth seeking action in the scams, deteriorating health infrastructure and subsidence of land at different places, wants to sidestep these issues by raising frivolous ‘islamophobic’ issues. Interestingly, none in the state due to fear of losing majority community votes is willing to call spade a spade except for leftists parties and leaders .

The issue of marriage of daughter of Yashpal Benam, a BJP leader from Pauri Garhwal with a Muslim boy with mutual consent of both the families also gave enough fuel to Hindu right wing to raise the bogey of “love Jehad”. A virulent campaign on endemic scale was launched on social media and Hindu organisations organised panchayats and threatened to physically stop the marriage. Yashpal Benam who had circulated the marriage invitation card which triggered the crisis had to cancel the marriage respecting the ‘public sentiments’. The boy and girl in question are graduates of IIT, Roorkee and working together in a private company.

The miniscule Van Gujjar Muslim community has also been targeted. A “dharm sabha” was held by ‘Rudra Sena’ in Tyuni  in the month of April, 2023 and  hate speeches were made calling for the economic boycott of minorities, a ban on settlement of “non Sanatanis” in the state, and declaring that “peace cannot prevail in the world, unless every ‘jihadi’ is eliminated.” Earlier, the ‘Rudra Sena’ had threatened the ‘Van Gujjar’ Muslim nomads who had been living there since ages to leave the area. No action was taken by the administration on the pretext of not receiving any complaint.

A group of Supreme Court lawyers have written to the state Governor to take action. Even earlier, after hate speeches in the Haridwar ‘Dharam Sansad’ in December 2021, police cases were lodged only after the intervention of the Apex Court.

Even a school in Dehradun was targeted for organising a cultural programme on the occasion of EID festival. The Hindu right wing members harassed the school management and by charging the school of religious conversions. The school is not run by Muslims.

Apart from raising the issues of ‘Mazar Jehad’ and ‘Land jehad’, Chief Minister Dhami also announced that the state soon will be the first to introduce Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the country for which a committee holding  public hearings in Dehradun in the past week.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had created a record by coming back to power again in the hill state of Uttarakhand in the state assembly polls of 2022 by breaking the myth of alternately sharing power after every five years with Congress party since the formation of the state. The party had scored a decent victory by winning 47 seats despite the fact that the party had it’s back to the wall due to massive anti-incumbency, non-performance resulting in change of it’s three Chief Ministers within a span of few months in the last year before the state assembly polls.

It was not the performance of the BJP government which did them in but the highly charged communal campaign and appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which worked for the saffron party. The party had to change three chief ministers in the run up to the state assembly elections due to their non-performance.

Apart from the appeal of the BJP’s narrative of robust nationalism in an upper caste Hindu dominant state of Uttarakhand, having a large number of service personnel and ex-servicemen, the highly virulent communal anti-Muslim campaign by the party did help them in the polls. The campaign which was carried out by the state party leaders, workers and RSS functionaries was finely supported by party big wigs including the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister.

In a state, where nearly each house has a youth serving in the armed forces where bodies of jawans who lay down their lives in J&K, Siachin glacier and North-East are frequent, the issue of robust nationalism espoused by the BJP has a profound appeal.

During the state assembly polls, the BJP had peppered it with dose of threat of Muslims including that of Rohingya Muslims to create ‘fear’ amongst the majority community as has been seen in the state of Gujarat in the past two decades where the party has won elections on communal planks. The Congress party was blamed for appeasing the Muslims and being pro-Muslim during the poll campaign which had struck. The same strategy is again in play.

Interestingly, it was a self goal by Harish Rawat, who three months prior to the state assembly polls said that he was wrongly targetted by his political opponents for favouring a particular community and he did not permitted Friday “Juma” prayers as was alleged. He said that it did cause him to lose the 2017 state assembly elections and dared his opponents to show any such government notification of leave for Muslim employees for Friday ‘Juma’ prayers during holy month of ‘Ramzan’. The ruling BJP which had been on the defensive due to its’ acts of omission and commissions in the past five years, latched on to the issue with state as well as the national BJP leaders calling him and Congress party as being pro-Muslim.

4. A morphed photo of former Uttarakhand Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Harish Rawat showing him as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) during 2022 assembly elections.

A vicious campaign was launched by the ruling BJP and its’ crony media against former Chief Minister and chairman of the Congress Campaign Committee Harish Rawat for allegedly promising a ‘Muslim University’ to a small time Muslim Congress leader.

The word ‘Muslim’ was enough for the BJP and ‘Sangh Parivar” to start their game of communal polarisation and started targeting Harish Rawat and Congress party. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami charged that the Congress party has been trying to appease the Muslims. The entire BJP took up the issue and blasted the Congress and went after it’s Chief ministerial face Harish Rawat.

A morphed superimposed photo of Harish Rawat showing him as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was circulated by BJP IT cell which was taken down following notice by Election Commission.  As polling date came near, senior BJP party leaders went a step further and charged that it was a Congress conspiracy to encourage “Land jehad” in Uttarakhand hills which is considered as a ‘Devbhoomi’.The entire campaign was very well orchestrated by the BJP on social media having penetration up to the far off villages in the hill.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his election rallies had  charged that Congress has been trying to settle Rohingya Muslims in the hills which did create a scare amongst the majority community.

During the state assembly 2022 election campaign, apart from his developmental agenda, Prime Minister Modi did sent a highly communal message in a subtle manner. Without naming Muslims, he asked the audience whether they know what the Congress party is going to do to damage their culture, heritage, religion and “Devbhoomi”. He also asked them whether they will stop the Congress from doing so.

The final straw was provided by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami who promised to implement Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state on the lines of Goa.

Earlier, ahead of state assembly polls in September 2021, Uttarakhand government had come up  with an order to target the minority community on the issue of alleged  “Land jehad”. Although the Uttarakhand state government did not termed it as a measure against “land jihad”, the order targets the Muslim community with an aim to create communal polarisation.

The government order in question said  that there has been an “unprecedented” increase in population in some parts of Uttarakhand, by a certain community which has led to migration of the “members of a certain community”.

The state government has ordered the police and administrative officers from all the districts to set up peace committees, track “illegal land deals” and prepare a list of outsiders with criminal antecedents. A government press release said: “Due to unprecedented rise in population in certain areas of the state, the demography of those areas has been majorly affected. And due to this demographic change, members of a certain community are forced to migrate from those areas. Also, there are possibilities that the communal harmony in those areas may be disturbed.”

Interestingly, nothing came out of the report by the District Magistrates and nobody took it up to challenge the BJP narrative after the polls.

It all had started after a BJP leader with close ties to RSS, Ajendra Ajay, wrote to the Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami in July 2021 claiming that the Muslims in the state have started what he called “land jihad”. In his letter, he alleged that Muslims are not only purchasing land in bulk, but are building their places of worship and urged the CM to look into the matter.

Since the BJP came to power in the state after the Assembly elections in 2017, there had been nearly a dozen incidents where members of the minority community were targeted by RSS, BJP and other right-wing groups. In July 2021, following the ‘Id-ul-Zuha’ prayers by migrant Muslim labourers at an under construction site in Badrinath, right-wing groups had demanded action. Rumours were spread on social media that the prayers took place at the Badrinath temple to fan communal tension in the region. As a number of media outlets ran a campaign to put the onus of the COVID-19 spread on Tablighi Jamaat members, Mahendra Bhatt, a BJP legislator then and Uttarakhand BJP chief now had advised Hindus to avoid barber shops and beauty parlours owned by the minority community members.

In April 2018, six shops belonging to Muslim shopkeepers were burnt in Augustmuni town of Rudraprayag district of Garhwal. The members of the right-wing groups including those allegedly belonging to Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) took out a procession and targeted these shops following a rumour that claimed a Muslim youth has raped a minor girl. Rudraprayag District Magistrate, in a statement, clarified that it was a mere rumor which was spread on social media. In October 2017, Hindu groups attacked and ransacked Muslim shops and homes from Rishikesh to Haridwar, following a murder at Raiwala. The accused in the murder case were Muslims

On September 8, 2017, two Muslim boys from Kirtinagar town in Tehri Garhwal were caught roaming with two girls belonging to the majority community in Dehradun by the police. The police promptly reported the matter to Kirtinagar, where members of the right-wing groups vandalised shops belonging to the Muslim boys. The boys were sent to jail.

In July 2017, right-wing members attacked Muslims’ shops in Satpuli town of the Pauri Garhwal district after an “offensive” Facebook post purportedly made by a Muslim boy. After a man was arrested for allegedly having sex with a cow, there was tension in Satpuli town with ABVP members forrcing a shutdown in the town market.

In July, 2017, Kashmiri traders were targeted by a few right-wing groups in the Hill station of Mussoorie and given an ultimatum to pack up and leave Mussoorie by March 2018. The provocation for this was alleged raising of pro-Pakistan slogans after an India-Pakistan Champions Trophy match. The Kashmiri traders, however, had nothing to do with it.

Apart from the native Garhwali Muslims, who hail from Nandprayag and Tehri Garhwal districts, some Muslims from neighbouring districts of Uttar Pradesh run vegetable stalls, fruit shops, barber shops or other small businesses. The Garhwali native Muslims have been living in the hills for generations. The plain districts of Dehradun, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar already have a sizeable Muslim population living in the areas since before the formation of the state Uttarakhand in 2000. The Muslim population adds up to about 10% of the total population in the state and is mainly concentrated in the three districts.

The Uttarakhand state government has failed to give any concrete data on the alleged demographic change cited in the order. It has also failed to specify the areas where such “worrisome” demographic changes have occurred leading to migration of a “certain community”. No census has taken place after 2011.

On the other hand, the region has witnessed out-migration for many years due to an array of issues such as tough geographical terrain, lack of civic and health facilities, fewer opportunities for education and employment, etc. Former BJP Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had even set up a Migration Commission to look into the issue and suggest corrective measures. The Commission headed by S S Negi, a retired IFS officer, has submitted its report to the BJP government, but has not mentioned any reason of coercion or forcible migration due to the alleged demographic change cited in the order. Since the order was passed, the district administrations have failed to find any cases of “land jehad” in the state. After Gujarat, Uttarakhand is the next laboratory of ‘Hindutva’ agenda.






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