Muslim leaders in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun have called for a mahapanchayat (conclave) on June 18 to protest the targeting of their community by Hindutva supremacists, reported the Hindustan Times.

The call comes amid threats issued by Hindutva groups asking Muslim traders in the town to leave the state. The Muslim traders were warned on June 5 to leave Uttarkashi following an alleged attempt to kidnap a 14-year-old Hindu girl in Purola area by two men – one Muslim and the other Hindu. The Hindutva groups have alleged that the kidnapping was a case of “love jihad” – a debunked conspiracy theory according to which Muslim men lure Hindu women into romantic relationships in order to convert them to Islam.

Posters carrying the warning had been put up in the Purola main market area following which many Muslims left the town. Doors of shops owned by Muslims were painted with an “X” to earmark them, The Times of India reported.

On Sunday, Waseem Ahmed, the in charge of media department in the Muslim Seva Sangathan, told the Hindustan Times that people from across the state will participate in the mahapanchayat on June 18. The Muslim Seva Sangathan is an organisation that works for the rights of Muslims.

Mohammad Ahmad Qasmi, a cleric in Dehradun, said that the culprit in the kidnapping case should be punished but the whole community should not be targeted.

“Through the mahapanchayat, we just want to make an appeal not to punish the innocent,” he added.

Meanwhile, social media users flagged several instances of hateful and incendiary comments made by Hindutva supremacists targeting Muslims in Uttarkashi.

In a video on Facebook, Hindutva supremacist Prabodhanand Giri demanded the “jihadis be removed from Uttarakhand”. He claimed that the said jihadis were getting protection from politicians and asked people of the state to chant the slogan, “Remove jihadis, save Uttarakhand”.

Giri was among those booked for hate speech against Muslims at a religious conclave held in Haridwar in 2021.

Hindutva body Bajrang Dal has written to the district magistrate of Tehri Garhwal on June 5 that if Muslim traders do not leave the city, it will stage a protest on June 20. The group has sought permission for the protest.

The communal tension in Uttarkashi had begun after the alleged kidnappers – Ubed Khan (24), a local shopkeeper, and Jitender Saini (23), a motorcycle mechanic – were arrested on May 27, a day after the alleged kidnapping bid.

Two days after the arrests, Hindutva bodies held a protest march that turned violent after some demonstrators allegedly attacked shops belonging to Muslims. Another protest attended by nearly 900 people was organised on June 3 under the banner of Yamuna Ghati Hindu Jagriti Sangathan.

Also read:

‘A Man from Motihari’: This novel about a writer charts Muslim lives during far right politics