New Delhi: Amid the ongoing communal tension in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, Hindu religious leaders in the state had threatened to organise a mahapanchayat against Muslims on June 15, 2023. However, the administration denied permission for the event and imposed prohibitory orders.
Speaking to The Wire, Swami Adi Yogi, a close associate of Darshan Bharti who has been accused of delivering communal speeches in the state, said, “This land belongs to the gods, the sages and the saints. People have come here for service, but instead, they are consuming meat and casting unwanted glances at our daughters.”
When asked if they were boycotting Muslims in Uttarakhand, he responded, “No, we are not. This place is like Mecca for us. Are we allowed to enter Mecca? Similarly, this is our religious sanctuary, and by 2024, we will cleanse Uttarakhand of any jihadist influence, boycotting and shutting down all meat establishments in the state. In 2024, the establishment of a Hindu rashtra will commence right here.”
The Uttarakhand high court, in response to a petition by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), has ordered the state to maintain law and order and instructed all parties involved to avoid engaging in social media debates regarding the proposed mahapanchayat organised by right-wing Hindu groups in Purola, Uttarkashi district.
Bharti, who is at the forefront of protests against the Muslim community in Uttarkashi, previously stated, “We are in touch with every minister in the state. We also discussed the matter of ‘land jihad’ with CM Uttarakhand Pushkar Singh Dhami, and it was after that discussion that he enacted laws on ‘land jihad,’ resulting in the bulldozing of over 300 mausoleums.”
Recently, the Supreme Court directed all states/UTs to register suo motu FIRs against hate speeches. Yet for the last 20 days, Muslims in Uttarkashi are living in fear of losing their livelihoods.
On May 29, a rally was organised by Hindu right groups in Purola, Uttarakhand after two people, one of whom belongs to a minority community, were accused of abducting a minor girl. Slogans of ‘Jai Shree Ram’, ‘Hindustan me rehna hoga Jai Shree Ram Kehna hoga’ and ‘Jago Hindu Jago, Musalmaano ko bhagao’ were raised at the rally.
Imran*, who was born and raised in Uttarakhand, told The Wire, “When these slogans were being raised, my 10-year-old daughter asked me why they were saying such things about us. I had no answer for her, and she began to cry.”
Imran believes that people of Uttarkashi are not like communal, but there are some groups who are deliberately delivering hate speeches and forcing their landlords to evict Muslim shopowners. A total of around 38 shops are rented out to Muslims in the area, out of which the landlords of 12 shops evicted the shopkeepers so far.
“During the rally, police were walking with them as they were also part of the rally,” Imran added.
Saleem Ahmed, who is a BJP worker, is among those who were evicted from their shops. However, he still owns his house. He said, “I will sell my house and relocate to Dehradun. I can no longer endure such a situation.”
In an interview to The Reporters’ Collective, BJP’s district general secretary of the SC wing Prakash Kumar Dabral in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district said about Muslims, “We will not let them do business here, will not let them open shops. Then they will leave on their own.”
Regarding the administration’s decision not to allow the mahapanchayat – or another mahapanchayat planned by Muslim groups – Swami Adi Yogi stated, “This matter is of utmost religious significance to us, and this government has bestowed upon us the right to safeguard our religious pilgrimages.”