About 35 Muslim families have permanently moved out of Purola town in Uttarkashi while six families have left temporarily after communal tension began in the area.
“Well-wishers told me to leave,” said Salim, who runs a clothing shop in Purana, “otherwise there would be a problem.”
Tensions began in May when a minor Hindu girl was . Two men were arrested on May 26 and booked under the POCSO Act. Soon after, local Hindutva groups alleged this was a case of “love jihad”.
On May 29, the BJP and Bajrang Dal , ransacking shops and shouting slogans. Posters then came up warning Muslim shop owners – referred to as “love jihadis” in the posters – to leave by June 15.
The police denied permission for this June 15 “mahapanchayat” to take place and section 144 was imposed on June 14 until June 19.
Families were still frightened. Salim said he was “very scared” after the vandalism on May 29. “I was worried about my children. The next day, I vacated the shop and left the city with my family.”
The house of Bale Khan is also locked. Khan came to Purola from Bijnor nearly 50 years ago. Neighbours said he left with his family on June 14 but “nothing is known about where he has gone”.
Harimohan Negi, the president of the Purola Nagar panchayat, told Newslaundry that Muslim shop owners left “because the atmosphere deteriorated and their safety was threatened”.
But BJP Purola leader Rahul Dev Nautiyal said the exodus is necessary. “Some people are polluting our deva bhoomi. After coming here, they do ‘land jihad’ and ‘love jihad’. So it’s good they left.”
Virendra Singh Rawat, head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Purola, alleged “Muslims themselves put up those posters to defame Hindus”. “We have not asked anyone to leave the city,” he said. “Whoever has left has gone of their own free will.”
This report was in Newslaundry Hindi.