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Ex-Civil Servants Urge Uttarakhand Govt not to Permit ‘Communal’ Mahapanchayat

The Constitutional Conduct Group expressed deep concern against the targeting of Muslims in Uttarkashi and Tehri Garhwal.
Ex-Civil Servants Urge Uttarakhand Govt not to Permit ‘Communal’ Mahapanchayat

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The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), comprising former civil servants, has written to Uttarakhand chief secretary SS Sandhu and director general of police Ashok Kumar expressing “deep concern” about the “criminal campaign” against the state’s Muslims.

We write today to express our deep concern at the developing situation in Uttarakhand, particularly in Uttarkashi and Tehri Garhwal districts,” former 52 civil servants wrote.

According to the letter, “threats have been made regarding a Mahapanchayat” proposed to be held in Purola town on June 15 and a rally and Chakka Jam in Tehri on June 20 “with calls to expel Muslims from these areas”. 

The CCG urged Sandhu and Kumar to ensure such “criminal, communal or intimidatory programmes” are not permitted on these dates or otherwise, and that the police and administration function as per the Constitution, the law and the multiple directions of the Supreme Court (SC) to act against hate speech and mob violence.

Alleging a communal campaign in these regions, the letter points out “the calls for bandh in over 12 towns and rallies and hate speech against Muslims, which led to 42 Muslim families reportedly fleeing the town of Purola on May 28, and for Muslim shopkeepers to leave Purola, Badkot and possibly other locations”.

Earlier this month, the Hindustan Times reported that posters threatening Muslim traders to vacate shops by June 15 had surfaced in Uttarkashi on June 5 following the alleged abduction attempt on a 14-year-old girl by a Hindu and a Muslim man.

The CCG also mentioned a June 11 Amar Ujala report about a Mahapanchayat meeting in Purola where “a number of figures at the forefront of the anti-minority campaign” were present.

We also note that on June 9, Hindustan reported that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had sent a letter to the Tehri district magistrate saying that an ‘ultimatum’ has been given to all members of the Muslim community to leave the Jaunpur Valley and particularly the towns of Nainbagh, Jakhar, Nagtibba, Thatyur, Saklana, Damta, Purola, Barkot and Uttarkashi,” the CCG wrote adding that “if this ultimatum is not complied with, roads will be jammed and protests will be held in Tehri on June 20”.

The former IAS and IPS officers wrote that based on these reports, “we cannot avoid the conclusion that this ongoing campaign is a criminal enterprise explicitly aimed at threatening our fellow citizens”.

Expressing surprise, the CCG further wrote: “It is a mystery to us as to why, despite information being available in the public domain, the criminal campaign against minority communities underway since May 26 has seen no action whatsoever being taken by the administration beyond the registration of a case against ‘unknown persons’ after posters were put up.”

The letter draws attention to a similar Mahapanchayat planned in Haridwar in April 2022 that was cancelled after the “Supreme Court explicitly directed that the chief secretary of the state would be held responsible for any hate speech at this gathering, indicating that it was aware of what was likely to happen”.

The CCG also mentioned that 23 SC lawyers wrote to the Uttarakhand governor pointing out that the “state is in contempt of court” and in particular of the 21.10.2022 order of the Court in Shaheen Abdullah vs. Union of India, wherein the states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi were specifically directed to “ensure that immediately as and when any speech or any action takes place which attracts offences such as Sections 153A, 153B and 295A and 505 of the IPC etc., suo moto action will be taken to register cases even if no complaint is forthcoming and proceed against the offenders in accordance with law”

Yet nothing has been done till date. We finally note that this intimidation campaign is being justified on the grounds of so-called ‘love jihad’ and that the chief minister has been repeatedly making public statements claiming that ‘land jihad’ and ‘love jihad’ will not be tolerated in the state notwithstanding that it is against both the law and the Constitution to target entire communities based on supposed wrongdoing by individuals,” the letter reads.

The CCG wrote that the Uttarakhand government has been “claiming that hundreds of religious shrines, the vast majority of them mazars, have been demolished in the last two months”.

The former civil servants called upon the district administration to ensure that “no communal, intimidatory, hate-focussed or other programme is permitted on June 15 and 20 or any other date”.

The state government should also ensure that “any person who instigates or indulges in violence, harassment or intimidation of any other person on the basis of their religious identity is prosecuted”.

The 2018 SC judgment in Tehseen Poonawalla vs. Union of India and Ors. must be implemented to “prevent hate speech and mob violence”, it added.

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