Posters have been displayed in Uttarkashi town in Uttarakhand, threatening Muslim traders to close their shops. This incident occurred in the aftermath of tensions caused by an alleged attempted kidnapping of a 14-year-old Hindu girl in the Purola area, involving a Muslim and a Hindu perpetrator. The individuals accused of the kidnapping were arrested shortly after the incident.
However, certain Hindutva groups claimed it was a case of “love jihad,” a debunked conspiracy theory suggesting that Muslim men entice Hindu women into relationships to convert them to Islam.
Following the arrests, protests organized by Hindutva groups turned violent, with some demonstrators reportedly attacking shops belonging to Muslims. As a result, many Muslim shopkeepers left the town.
On Monday, posters were seen in the Purola main market, demanding that Muslim traders vacate their shops before a mahapanchayat (grand assembly) scheduled for June 15. These posters, printed in Hindi, were attributed to a group called Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan.
The Superintendent of Police, Arpan Yaduvanshi, confirmed that the posters were removed promptly and that the police were working on identifying the individuals responsible for putting them up. Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Virender Rana alleged that local residents were behind the posters, expressing a desire for members of a specific community to leave the town to maintain peace and communal harmony. The protests have led to the closure of Muslim-owned shops and the departure of some Muslim residents from the area.
Some Muslim shop owners expressed fear and a reluctance to return to Purola due to the current atmosphere. They called for compensation from the authorities if they are expected to leave the region. While condemning the attempted abduction, an unidentified Muslim shopkeeper demanded strict action against the culprits and disassociated themselves from criminal and illegal activities.
In response to the situation, a few Muslim families submitted a memorandum to the sub-divisional magistrate, highlighting the financial crisis they face and requesting security to reopen their businesses. The memorandum also held the administration responsible for any untoward incidents involving Muslims. Conversely, the protestors submitted a memorandum to the sub-divisional magistrate, requesting verification of individuals conducting business in the town.
According to the sources, the memorandum from the protestors stated that certain individuals from a specific community had been engaging in immoral activities under the guise of doing business, thereby polluting the atmosphere.