Uttarakhand 'Verification Drive' of Non-Natives Identifies 201 'Suspicious People': Report

The drive, which has raised eyebrows, comes in response to a Hindutva leader's request to prevent non-Hindus from entering and conducting business in the Char Dham region, a popular Hindu pilgrimage site in the state.

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New Delhi: Two days after Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami issued instructions to the state police to carry out a verification drive to “check the backgrounds of people who have settled in Uttarakhand but hail from different states,” 201 ‘suspicious’ people have been identified, according to media reports.

The ‘suspicious’ people from other states were identified on April 21 by the police – the first day of a ten-day ‘verification’ drive being carried out across the state.

As per a Times of India report, the police claimed to have checked 4,094 ‘non-natives’ residing in the hill state, out of whom were “201 suspicious people, including 32 labourers, 97 hawkers and 46 tenants”.

The report stated, “Police officials said that preventive action has been taken against all 201 people.”

Giving a break-up of the background of the 4,094 people based on the data released by the state police, it said that while 1,770 were labourers, 1,043 were hawkers, 1,147 were tenants and 134 others.

Also read: Char Dham: CM Promises ‘Verification Drive’ After Hindutva Leaders Urge Ban of Non-Hindus

Dhami’s instructions to the police came this April in response to a letter written by Haridwar Dharam Sansad organiser Swami Anandaswaroop, seeking the chief minister’s intervention to change the state’s Land Act to “ensure that non-Hindus do not own land, build houses or conduct businesses in the Char Dham region”, a popular Hindu pilgrimage circuit in the hill state.

A controversial figure, Anandaswaroop, in December 2021, at the Haridwar Dharma Sansad, drew international attention for his hate speech against the Muslim community.

“The decision of this Dharma Sansad would be a word of God and the government will have to listen to it,” Anandaswaroop had said at the event. “If it won’t, then we would wage a war that would be more gruesome than the revolt of 1857.”

His earlier hate speeches and incitement to violence had been documented by The Wire and can be viewed here.

On asked whether the verification drive would focus on non-Hindus as demanded by Anandaswaroop, Dhami didn’t deny it, stating, “Our state has a distinct culture which should be preserved. The government will run a drive to ensure this. Under this drive, we will find out people whose antecedents are suspicious and verify their backgrounds. We will try to ensure such people do not stay in Uttarakhand and disturb its peace.”

Reacting to the chief minister’s instructions that came after Swaroop’s letter, the Opposition Congress has termed it a government drive aimed at “a particular community”. State Congress spokesperson Garima Dasauni had told local media that the party was not opposed to any verification drive per se, but “if the real reason is maintaining law and order, the drive should be carried out throughout the year”.

“Since that is not the case, the government has clearly communalised the exercise to target the minority community, which is a part of their political agenda.”

Countering Congress’s opposition to the BJP government’s action, Uttarakhand BJP media in-charge Manveer Singh Chauhan said that it “aims at checking anti-social elements to prevent any untoward incident in Uttarakhand, but the Congress sees it as a move to target minorities as the stance favours its appeasement politics”.

State DGP Ashok Kumar told reporters that the police are carrying out the verification drive in all the 13 districts of the state “without any bias”.

“People belonging to all communities are being checked. Action will be taken against all suspicious elements irrespective of their religious background to prevent any disturbance in the state’s peace and harmony.”