After Manipur, BJP-ruling Uttarakhand is battered with communal violence...Here's what we know!

The unrest between the communities under BJP watch is seemingly spreading across the country as in the midst of a lack of normalcy between the dominant communities in the BJP-ruling Manipur in the wake of a year-long violence, another BJP-ruling state of Uttarakhand is witnessing similar scenes that instigated a conflict and clash between two religious groups. 

The Uttarakhand violence has also killed at least five people and injured hundred others. It has been reported that the starting point of the violence was the demolition of a mosque claiming that it was constructed illegally. According to reports, the demolition drive, that took place on Thursday evening, was launched to clear illegal constructions including a mosque and an adjoining madrassa, a Muslim religious school. 

The demolition drive that happened nearly a fortnight after the inauguration of Ram Temple in Ayodhya has drawn national attention ahead of the general elections in which BJP is vying to retain its reign at the centre. The violence in Uttarakhand broke out in Haldwani town and the local police termed it as an anti-encroachment drive. 

The demolition of a mosque happened when some of the Muslim people were offering prayers and they said that they have been targeted unfairly. The clashes that emerged later had severely injured hundreds of protesters and police personnel. The visuals from the ground had displayed protesters setting fire to vehicles and pelting stones while the police countered them through tear gas.  

In the wake of escalating violence, the BJP government has imposed a curfew and has issued 'shoot at sight' orders to bring the situation under control. BBC reported that the district of Haldwani had witnessed strong protests in January 2023 after more than 50,000 people, mostly Muslims, were given eviction notice citing that they have allegedly occupied and have been living on land owned by the Indian Railways. 

While the government initiated a demolition drive, it was eventually stopped by a Supreme Court ruling. A year later, the demolition drive has now been revived based on a high court order directing the authorities to clear the encroachments and illegal settlements from the area. The local administration has alleged that a mosque and madrassa were illegal settlements and weren't registered as a religious structures. 

Haldwani District Magistrate Vandana Singh has said that the mosque and madrassa were demolished because they were illegally built on government land and weren't registered as a religious structures. She further claimed, "The drive wasn't targeted towards any particular community. It began peacefully but a mob attacked officials soon after, leading to violence."

Defending the demolition drive, Vandana Singh said that the authorities had given the mosque's administration prior notice about its demolition. Nevertheless, the local people had a different story as they strongly denied that the notice was issued prior and said that the mosque was demolished before the court could give a final decision in the case. 

The Indian Express has quoted Shakeel Ahmad, a local councillor, saying, "When the administration came to demolish the structures, we asked them to stop until the next court hearing. But they didn't listen. If they had waited for the final decision of the court, there would have been no resistance from us." Furthermore, the government has on Friday - February 9 curbed internet services and imposed a shutdown in Haldwani owing to the violence. 

The local schools have been shut and thousands of police personnel have been deployed to patrol the area to monitor the situation. Notably, the violence has come days after the Uttarakhand government has introduced and passed the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), becoming the first Indian state to pass the code. The development has also given a prelude to what we can expect from the BJP regime if it comes to the power again. 

The central BJP is planning to implement the UCC across the country after coming to power and UCC prescribes a new common law for all residents regardless of religion, gender, sex, and sexual orientation. Muslim people in Uttarakhand have rejected the UCC and said that it interferes with their Islamic practices. The Muslim people also express that they feel unfairly targeted under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist regime and have slammed it for sparking religious divide across the country ahead of the general elections.