Shops belonging to the Muslim residents of Uttarakhand’s Purola town remain shut. Most of the Muslim shop owners have fled the town in wake of the targeted vandalism and threats furnished by right-wing organisations.
The communal tensions have been simmering in the small town in Uttarkashi district since May 29, after the Bharatiya Janata Party, along with right-wing organisation Bajrang Dal, took out a protest rally against the local Muslim community. Around 1,000 people participated in the rally which culminated in protestors sticking posters outside shops owned by Muslims, warning them to leave the town before June 15.
The posters read, “Love Jihadis are informed to vacate their shops before the Mahapanchayat to be held on June 15, 2023. If this is not done by you, it will depend on the time. Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan.”
During the rally, an unruly mob raised slogans of “Jai Shri Ram”, tore down hoardings of Muslim shopkeepers, and ransacked some shops. Notably, of the 400 shops in Purola, only 40-42 are owned by Muslims.
The current communal tensions between the communities in Purola can be traced to the kidnapping of a minor girl. Two men, Jitendra Saini and Zahid Malik, were arrested on May 26 and booked under the POCSO Act. Following the arrests, local Hindutva groups alleged “love jihad”, leading to the May 29 rally.
Surendra Pal, a salon owner in Purola, told Newslaundry that during the rally, Muslim shopkeepers were targeted and ransacked while raising slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jihadi Bhagao”.