SP, Uttarkashi Provides Investigation Report on Forced Exodus of Muslims in June
On September 1, the District Collector, Uttarkashi sent a detailed action taken report to the complaint dated June 16, 2023, filed with the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). The said complaint, was against the shocking and outrageous calls for socio-economic boycott calls against local Muslims and the resultant forced exodus of the minorities, all by local Hindutva right-wing groups.
The said complaint highlighted that a Hindutva organisation, namely the Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan, had published posters –prominently displayed–demanding that Muslims in the area flee their residences on threat of violence. This organisation was then joined by local community leaders like Swami Darshan Bharti and Rakesh Uttarakhandi, who also called for the forced eviction of Muslims while delivering strident hate-speeches against the community.
The complaint analysed the events leading to the exodus, the hate speeches, threats of violence boycott and abuse, led to the deterioration of communal harmony in the area and listed the sections of the criminal law and Constitution that stand violated. Following directives by the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) on the said complaint, an action taken report was sought from the superintendent of police, Uttarkashi.
The inception: In its reply, the police began by providing information that that the matter began with a case being lodged by the father of a minor Hindu girl in the Purola police station. In the complaint, it was alleged that two men, namely Uvaid Khan and Jitendra Sainihad, had kidnapped his daughter on the pretext of marriage.
The FIR had been lodged on May 26, 2023. The police had invoked sections 363 and 366A of the Indian Penal Code as well as section 16/17 of POCSO Act against Uvaid Khan and Jitendra Saini. The accused were also presented before the court and were sent to judicial custody. On June 10, after completion of the investigation, a charge sheet had been filed.
Communal disharmony: The report by the police further provided that since “the matter was inter-religious, local people/Hindu(tva) organisations, became enraged, took out a rally in Purola area and boycotted people of a religion.” Notably, the said rally was taken out on May 29, 2023, as provided in the CJP complaint to the NCM. On this, the police action taken reports states that, on the same day, “police PAC forces were deployed under the leadership of Badkot area officer and Badkot traffic area officer to ensure safety of people of a particular community and maintain law and order situation and a flag march was organised.” The CJP complaint, based on substantiated media reports, had stated that the rally had turned violent, with mob violence against homes and shops belonging to the minority community in the area. Reportedly, the District General Secretary of ruling party, Prakash Kumar Dabral, had made anti-minority statements and said, “We will not let them do business here, will not let them open shops. Then they will leave on their own.”
The ATR from the Uttarakhand police had provided that in connection with the May 29, 2023 incident, a case had been filed at Purola Police station on June 15 under sections 147/149/427 of the IPC, against 100-150 unknown persons. This matter is still being investigated.
Posters targeting minorities: Among the worst aspects of the targeted violence was the stigmatised marking of Muslim homes with an ‘X’ symbol, a development that had found widespread condemnation. The police stated that that “some unknown persons/anti-social elements pasted posters on the shutters of shops belonging to Muslims.”
The ATR also stated that the objectionable posters that stated, “Love Jihadis are being informed that they should vacate their shops before the Mahapanchayat of June 15, if you do not follow will be dealt with time Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan” were also pasted by “unknown miscreants.” A case under IPC sections 153A/505/(1)(G)/506 had been lodged by them against unknown persons and is under investigation says the ATR.
The Mahapanchayat: A Mahapanchayat had been scheduled to be organised on June 15, which had been called by Hindu right-wing groups against alleged incidents of ‘love jihad’. The police ATR states that, “Due to the proposed Mahapanchayat in Purola on June 15, 2023, the undersigned, realising seriousness of the situation and to maintain law and order and communal harmony as well briefed his subordinates on regular basis and instructed them to keep an eye on situation and be alert and on June 15, 2023 necessary police forces were deployed. To maintain peace and law and order, deputy collector, Purola, passed an order to enforce section 144 in Purola police station area from June 14, 2023 to June 19, 2023 and the same was publicised via various mediums. On June 15, 2023 sufficient police PAC forces were deployed in the area under Purola police station to maintain law and order situation as well as for the safety of people of a particular religion in the wake of proposed Mahapanchayat by various organisations. Because of the efforts of district administration, police, the proposed Mahapanchayat could not happen and peace prevailed in Purola Kasba Bazar area.”
It is essential to highlight here that between the night of June 13 and June 14, an urgent petition by the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) had been filed in the Supreme Court seeking urgent intervention to prohibit the proposed Mahapanchayat from taking place. By the morning of June 14, two other legal interventions in the form of letter petitions to the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud were also sent by academics Apoorvanand and People’s Union for Civil Liberty. Notably, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain the said plea, but had allowed the petitioner to approach the High Court or any other authority. Notably, by it was only by 11.30 a.m. on June 14 that news of 144 being imposed in Purola and the proposed controversial Mahapanchayat being disallowed had become public.
Later, on June 15, the Chief Justice of Uttarkhand High Court, Vipin Sanghi, had heard the APCR petition moved against the Mahapanchayat and stated that it was the paramount duty of the State to ensure that law, order and peace is maintained and that there is no loss of life and property of any person in the state. The court had also the directed all respondents (state, police) to take whatever steps necessary to fulfil their Constitutional obligation to maintain law and order and protect the lives of all.
Lastly, the police ATR states that that since June 17, all the shops of people belonging to the minority religion in Purola Kasba Bazar opened peacefully. Furthermore, sufficient police forces had been deployed for the safety of people belonging to a particular religion and maintain communal harmony and law and order. The report further states “Presently, there is peace in Purola and anti-social elements are being monitored constantly by local police. The investigators in cases filed in the connection with the above matter have been given necessary instructions to legally proceed on merit.”
The complete reply of the police can be read here:
The complete complaint sent to the NCM can be read here:
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