Uttarakhand is being promoted as a hub for investors, as critics report its anti-encroachment policy is targeting Muslim properties

The chief minister has hailed the state for investment and vows to build it as a world class tourist hub. However, as the Uttarakhand government tries to achieve global status, several news reports suggest that the anti-encroachment drive the government is taking out is targeting Muslims.

“We will not allow land jihad to proceed anywhere,” in April 2023, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami from BJP announced that his administration will take down all unlawfully constructed ‘mazars’ (tombs) and other structures in the state.

By August 2023, the Uttarakhand government had strengthened its attempts to deal with ‘unauthorised’ religious structures and encroachments on forest land in the state.

A government official told The Print that about “465 mazars (mausoleums), 45 temples, and two encroachments by the gurudwara committee” had been demolished.

In February earlier this month, protests took place after a mosque and madrasa, whose status was still sub-judice as per reports, was sealed and subsequently demolished by the authorities in Banbhoolpura. Six people were killed as unrest took place at the sight of demolition. The incident left 5 Muslims shot dead, many more injured, and hundreds of Muslim families having to flee the area due to the threat of police brutality and violence.

Haldwani’s Banbhoolpura however has faced threats and demolition before as well. In 2022, the railways made the claim that over 4365 houses have been built on railway land and now, needed to be removed for railway expansion. This led to widespread protests by the residents, as 50,000 of them were facing the threat of homelessness and displacement. The locals argued that they had lived in the area for over a 100 years. A majority of these residents who faced the threat of being displaced were reportedly Muslims. However, a Supreme Court order from January 2023 stayed the high court order for demolishing the houses.

Are Muslims being selectively targeted? As per a report by Scroll, even local news media have confirmed that it is Muslims whose properties, places of worship and graves are being disproportionately targeted in this ‘anti-encroachment’ drive by the government. Scroll’s report also details that some temples and other Hindu structures had also been issued notices for encroachment, located near Muslim sites, were not demolished, and people on ground suggest that this is a pattern throughout the state. Scroll spoke to a resident, Sarawast Joshi who said, “Barring a few small and secluded ones, virtually no encroached temple was touched by the administration. On the other hand, other than Kalu Sayyed mazar, almost all the mazars in Ramnagar, Kashipur and Haridwar have been demolished. The administration has selectively demolished only the mazars in the whole state of Uttarakhand.”

What is Nazul land? Government officials claim that these structures are built on Nazul land. According to Section 29 of The Hindu Succession Act of 1956, Nazul land means government-owned land allocated for diverse purposes, which is mostly non-agricultural in nature. The Land includes land which is designated for construction, road development, industry, playgrounds, and other civic amenities. Additionally, the government can also grant the land on lease to people on a temporary basis through extended or short term agreements.

Interestingly, in the midst of these encroachment drives, the state has been promoted as a hub for industry. The chief minister has stated that Uttarakhand is modelled after Gujarat, as the theme of the Global Investment Summit was ‘Destination Uttarakhand’ which was similar to the conclave held in Gujarat. Right before the Global Investment Summit held in Dehradun where the chief minister promoted the state as one which welcomes investment, the state signed a 20,000 crore memorandum of understanding with 50 + industries.


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