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Some Muslim Families Are Fleeing Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi. What Led To This?

Muslims have been given an ultimatum to flee their homes by right-wing mobs after a rumour of 'love jihad' surfaced.

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Hindutva mobs raging through Muslim-owned shops, Muslim families allegedly fleeing their homes, and rallies being taken out against ‘love-jihadis’ — such visuals have become emblematic of what life has been in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district in the last few weeks.

Despite the visuals going viral on social media, accompanied by growing concern, Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami has stayed mum on the issue. Dhami, who was on a two-day visit in Uttarkashi district, was seen ploughing the fields of a village on Sunday and sowing millets.

Earlier on Friday, Dhami had told the media that the government has “called for strict probe and action against love jihad cases”. “Be it love jihad or land jihad, we are working against that strictly” and that “people will be able to live in Uttarakhand only after verification,” the CM further said.

But the CM has made no statement yet about the alleged exodus of Muslim families from the district or the ultimatum given to them by right-wing bodies.

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As tensions continue to simmer, The Quint brings you a sequence of events that led up to this.

The 'Love Jihad' Case That Isn't

On 26 May, two men, Jitendra Saini and Ubaid Khan, were caught with a minor girl in Uttarkashi’s Purola town, allegedly trying to kidnap her. The girl was sent back home and the two men were arrested by the police and charged under IPC sections 363 (kidnapping) 366A (procuration of minor girl) as well as under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Even though there were two men involved, one of whom is a Hindu, the presence of a Muslim man reportedly led to suspicions and rumors of ‘love jihad’ spreading like wildfire in the town. ‘Love Jihad’ is a term coined by the Hindutva right wing bodies implying that Muslim men are out to ‘lure and trap’ Hindu women, only as a means to convert them to Islam.

However, as per a report in The Indian Express, an investigating officer in the case denied this having to do anything with ‘love jihad’. “The girl did not know these people… There is no love jihad angle,” the officer is quoted as saying.

Moreover, Uttarakhand has an existing anti-forceful religious conversion law, popularly termed as the 'love jihad' law. But no such Act has been applied in this case.

Rallies, Posters Threatening Muslims of 'Dire Consequences'

Soon, tensions erupted in the area, and on 29 May, a major rally was taken out in Purola by right-wing bodies demanding that Muslims leave the town. In videos of the rally that subsequently went viral, mobs can be seen attacking Muslim-owned shops, despite police presence.

Muslims have been given an ultimatum to flee their homes by right-wing mobs after a rumour of 'love jihad' surfaced.

A massive rally was taken out against Muslim shop-owners and residents.

Subsequently, posters were noticed on all Muslim-run shops in the area, that threatened them with “dire consequences.”

Muslims have been given an ultimatum to flee their homes by right-wing mobs after a rumour of 'love jihad' surfaced.

The posters threatening Muslims were found pasted across Muslim-run shops. 

“Love jihadis are informed that they need to vacate their shops before the June 15 Mahapanchayat. If you do not do this, then it (the result) will be seen at the time,” the posters read.

The police registered an FIR against unidentified persons in relation to the posters. The posters were undersigned by a group called the ‘Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan’.

The harassment of Muslims wasn’t limited to Purola. In the nearby town of Barkot, shutters of shops owned by Muslims were marked with a black cross.

Photos of this went viral on social media, with many on social media saying this was reminiscent of Nazi Germany, when Jewish traders were targeted in a similar fashion.

Muslim BJP Minority Cell Chief Not Spared Either

It wasn’t just regular Muslim traders but even those affiliated with the BJP who have had to succumb to the heat. Mohammed Zahid, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) minority cell chief in Uttarkashi, had to flee Purola, where he has resided for over 25 years. On the evening of 6 June, Zahid, who runs a local garment business, shut down his shop, and left the town. Zahid joined the BJP three years ago and has been a popular figure in the area.

Zahid told The Hindu that he asked for his party, the BJP, to support him, but was told to remain quiet. “Jab hum safe nahi hai to bataiye kaun sa musalman safe hoga waha (If we are not safe, how will any Muslim be safe there?),” Zahid said.

Since Zahid and his family left, reports of Muslims shutting down their homes and shops and fleeing overnight have only become more frequent.

Arpan Yaduvanshi, Superintendent of Police, stated that he had read in the media reports that several Muslim families had fled the town. "We have done several flag marches and peace meetings with the communities," Yaduvanshi told The Quint.

According to SHO Khajan Singh Chauhan of Purola Police Station, there has been no exodus of Muslim families from the town. "This is not true. Only one or two shopkeepers who may have been involved in criminal activity, have left," Chauhan told The Quint.

VHP's Ultimatum

Besides the 15 June Mahapanchayat threat indicated on the posters pasted on Muslim-run shops, other ultimatums have also been issued.

Muslims have been given an ultimatum to flee their homes by right-wing mobs after a rumour of 'love jihad' surfaced.

The letter written by VHP to the district administration. 

In a letter addressed to the Tehri Garhwal district administration, dated 5 June, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said that locals had given a “particular community” 10 days’ worth of time, to leave from many mentioned belts of Uttarakhand. The VHP, in its letter, wrote that if this doesn’t happen, then they along with the Hindu Yuva Vahini and Traders’ Union of Tehri Garhwal will block the highway on 20 June in protest.

The letter claims that members of the said community go around as waste-pickers, fruits and ice-cream vendors, threatening the women, religion, resources and culture of Uttarakhand.

With inputs from Arbab Ali.

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