On the night of Wednesday, 7 June, Mohammad Zahid, 45, packed his belongings, piled them into his car trunk, and drove from his house in Purola in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi district to his relatives' place in Dehradun, the state's capital.
"I felt scared for my family, so we left," he told The Quint. Zahid, his wife and their two children – a girl and a son – have been in Dehradun for the past five days.
Zahid is the district president of the Bharatiya Janata Party minority cell in Uttarkashi, and owned a successful garment business until 26 May when everything changed.
BJP Leader, Resident of Purola Since Over 30 Years, Forced to Flee
Zahid has been a resident of Purola since 1990. Abdul Wahid, his elder brother, had moved to this once-peaceful town before Zahid in 1981.
On 3 February this year, Zahid was elected president of the BJP's district minority cell.
"I have been with the party for the past 7-8 years," Zahid told The Quint. Before being elected as the president, he served three years as a Sanyojak (convener), and three years as the Mahamantri (general secretary).
"If a BJP post holder is feeling threatened, who is safe then?” he asked. Zahid joined the BJP hoping that if something ever happened, they would stand by him, but that did not happen. "I did not join the BJP for the money or post," he said.
"There was also a Hindu boy. If you want us to leave, they should as well. Treat all criminals the same," he added.
Zahid is referring to the incident which sparked the tensions in Purola.
An abduction of a minor girl by two men - one Hindu and one Muslim - was given a spin and presented as 'Love Jihad' by Hindutva groups. Communal tensions erupted on 26 May as a result of this.
'No One Told Us Not to Leave...We Will Not Return'
When The Quint spoke with Zahid, he was looking for a shop to rent in Vikas Nagar, Uttarakhand. His brother-in-law was clearing out his shop, and his nephew, who had a mobile repairing centre, had done the same the day before.
Zahid had rented his house and shop from a Hindu resident who asked him to vacate when things heated up two weeks ago
When asked if he'd return to Purola when the situation calms down, Zahid replied, "No, I will not return. They hold grudges against us."
Zahid claimed that on 5 June, a man named Prakash Jabral from a neighbouring village, came and threatened his son and relatives.
"'Burn their shops' Jabral said. He said this to my son on his face. He became terrified," Zahid explained.
Zahid then phoned a police officer and Brij Mohan Chauhan, president of the Vyapar Mandal. "They came and stood there to protect us while we cleared out the shop." Zahid allegedly dialed the SHO's number, which went unanswered.
"No one once told me not to leave or that things would get better," said Zahid, who has lived here for 35 years and felt betrayed since his Hindu neighbours and friends did not stand up for him. "They used to come to my house on Eid, and we used to go to their homes on Holi and Diwali."
However, Zahid's version is contested by the Uttarakhand BJP's minority cell president as well as the local police.
'People Have Left, No Pressure From Anyone': BJP's State Minority Cell President
Zahid belongs to a Pasmanda Muslim caste and his statements have brought into question the BJP's attempts to woo this section.
Intjar Hussian, the president of the Uttarakhand BJP's minority cell, confirmed that Zahid left the town but wasn't sympathetic to his plight.
"He should have waited a month or two for the situation to get better.
“If people have left they have done so on their own, with no pressure from anyone in society."
Hussain towed his party's line. "Our party will never oppress any community.”
The facts indicate otherwise. There have been 23 confirmed incidents of communal violence and huge demonstrations against Muslims in Uttarakhand since 2018, with some of those who made hate speeches having ties to the BJP.
According to SHO Khajan Singh 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."
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."