One of the seven Muslim shopkeepers of Purola town of Uttarkashi district in Uttarakhand has vacated his shop after he among others was asked by their respective landlords to vacate their shops following protests and demonstrations and ultimatums by right-wing Hindu organisations.
Seven of these shopkeepers and the miniscule minority population of around 40 families had already left the town after threats, demonstrations, and attacks on their premises by the locals led by right-wing organisations. A few Muslims own shops and houses in Purola town but are too scared to return back after protests and threats.
The problem in Purola town of Uttarakashi town started on May 27 after an alleged attempt by two youths who allegedly tried to ‘take away’ a local Hindu girl. Two boys namely Obaid, a Muslim, and another Jitender Saini were caught by locals with a Grade 9 local girl on May 27. The right-wing Hindu bodies charged the youth with enticing away a minor girl and it was a case of ‘Love Jihad’ prompting bandhs, demonstrations, and protests in the other towns of the district.
The markets remained closed in Barkot, Naogaon, Purola, and Damta in protest against the incident on a call given by the Yamuna Valley Hindu Jagriti Sangathan for a few days.
Later, posters appeared in the shops owned by minority community members to vacate and leave before June 15, 2023, in Purola. The posters put up on behalf of Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan warned ‘Love Jehadis’ to vacate their shops by June 15 when a ‘Mahapanchayat’ on the issue has been called by Hindu outfits.
The shops were also marked with crosses with black paint (a cross marking signifies elimination). The boards of the shops owned by Muslims were also broken.
According to locals, nine shop owners had asked their Muslim tenants to vacate their premises on the reported persuasion of Swami Darshan Bharati, a right-wing Hindu leader who had been vocal against the minority community. Seven of these shopkeepers have packed their goods and awaiting transport.
Meanwhile, the local police have registered a case against unknown persons for trying to disturb social and communal harmony under relevant sections. The shops belonging to the Muslim community are closed since May 28, 2023. A delegation of local Muslim shopkeepers had also met the local Sub-Divisional magistrate and sought protection to open their shops and businesses. But to no avail.
The police and Provincial Armed Constabulary(PAC) have been deployed in the town. Arpan Yaduvanshi, SP, Uttarkashi district has said that the minority Muslims have been assured of safety with the heavy deployment of police.