The Land of the Gods, a term endearingly given to the state that I call my hometown, has been increasingly building its sanctity by driving away its Muslim population. The culmination of this is finally seen in the burning of Haldwani. This piece questions this ‘sanctity’, a familiar rhetoric of casteism and now islamophobia. 

As we speak, the Haldwani region finds itself engulfed in the searing flames of communal violence, a firestorm that had been kindled long ago that is consuming its Muslim citizens, leaving behind only ashes of division and hatred. Around 300 Muslims in Bhanbhoolpoora, the epicentre of Haldwani violence, had to leave behind their homes and flee for their lives. Internet service in the areas has been revoked, curfews have been imposed, and cases of police brutality are coming out. The official death toll has been recorded at 6, but as usually happens with unreported deaths in communal violence, the locals fear the count is much higher. Due to the internet bans and curfews, it is hard to get the true picture on the ground. The state of Uttarakhand is burning; the alarms of doomsday are going off. The demolition of Maryam Masjid and Abdul Razzaq Zakariya Madrasa has led to large-scale violence breaking out in Haldwani. Civil rights groups, residents, and news outlets have pointed out how the demolition had been rushed, despite the matter being subjudice, and how legal measures had been violated. The disputed structure had been sealed on February 4th by the administration, and the demolition was to be halted until the final verdict of the court. Abdul Malik, the owner of the land, moved to court on February 6. The matter was taken up on February 8th and scheduled for a hearing on February 14th; however, the administration went ahead with the demolition on February 8th itself. It has also emerged that the administration and the police failed to act on the intelligence report recommendations that could have prevented this violence escalation. Meanwhile, CM Pushkar Singh Dhami has announced that a police station will be built on the ‘freed’ land. 

It must be noted that the land of Bhanbhoolpoora has been disputed for a few months, where eviction of the residents and demolition of construction were ordered by the High Court for ‘encroaching’ on railway land. The Supreme Court had heard the petitions of distressed residents who presented their documents and then stayed the order of the High Court, asserting the need to look at the human angle of the problem and that, ‘”There needs to be clarity on whether complete land vests in railways or what land belongs to the state… 50,000 people cannot be evicted overnight.”

Saira Shah Alim, an activist, had pointed out how it is only the Muslim areas that are being targeted and had written,

When it comes to evictions, especially the ones that would make people homeless, an absence of legal title does not mean that a resident is without any rights and can simply be turfed off the land. I firmly believe that no human is illegal, so how can any building or structure be more important than human lives? Have we even given thought to where these families will go? Have we, as a nation, started taking pride in the number of people that we get to disenfranchise and render homeless each year? There has to be a method to the madness.”

As the fact-finding team report led by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights and Karawan-e-Mohabbat has pointed out, the Haldwani riots are not an isolated incident spurning out of nowhere but a culmination of the divisive rhetoric and calls for public boycotts of Muslims by the state government that have been fuelled in recent years. This includes the unsupported discourse, propagated by the CM, that Muslims are devising a series of ‘jihads’ against the Hindu population, including land jihad, love jihad, vyapar jihad, mazaar jihad, etc., aided by another rhetoric that the Muslim population has sharply risen, threatening to change the demographic of the state. With open calls for establishing a ‘hindu rashtra’ starting from Uttarakhand by ministers and sants alike, it is clear that we are moving towards ethnic cleansing, targeting, and suppression of the Muslim population in this politicised ‘Devbhoomi’. Uttarakhand was carved to make space for the indigenous people and tribes of the hills, but this newly popularised and politicised version of ‘Devbhoomi’ is built on the idea that the land of Uttrakhand, home to one of the char-dhams of India, Badrinath, the other char-dhams of Uttarakhand, and many more places of Hindu religious significance, is a land sacred to Hindus, and Muslims are polluting this sanctity. The Muslims are once again branded as the ‘other’ and the ‘outsiders’. Even the district president of the minority cell of the BJP, Mohammad Zahid, had to flee for his safety. It makes us wonder: if not the land where their families have lived across generations, then where do the Muslims belong?

What is more regrettable is that ordinary Hindu citizens have started giving into this large-scale mobilisation and buying the narrative that their religion, women, livelihood, and land are all threatened by this ‘rise’ in the Muslim population. This post, along with many such targeted posts that started widely circulating amidst the Haldwani violence, is just a testament to how the Hindu citizens feel ‘threatened’ by the sudden Muslim population rise. The post has been refuted as yet another fake news story. According to news reports, Census 2021 has been postponed to 2024–25. As of now, the recent official demographic figures of Haldwani are unknown, and yet leaders are quick to make up their own demographics. Even the Purola town news of ‘‘love jihad’ was later found to be sensationalised, and the communal angle was inserted forcefully in an abduction by a duo, one of whom was a Muslim and the other a Hindu. Yet the damage was done. This sensationalised love-jihad ploy was widely popularised by Hindutva organisations and media houses; the Muslim residents, the ‘love jihadis’, had to flee, and their livelihoods were snatched. Moreover, isn’t ‘love jihad’ a reinforcement of Brahminical purity that denies all agency and privacy to their women and places the sanctity of their religious honour in the sexuality of the woman? 

I wonder, what more would it take for the people to see the clear vilification and extermination of the Muslims of Uttarakhand? Does Devbhoomi leave no space for its Muslim children to be buried? Do our benevolent gods and holy rivers actually require cleansing from Muslim blood? As someone whose roots lie in Uttarakhand, I watch my state burn more every day, thinking that perhaps a downpour of redemption can quell the flames of strife.

Read Also: The Fear of Being Identified

Featured Image Credits: PTI

Sarah Nautiyal

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Delhi School of Social Work Alumni condemn Kapil Mishra’s communal statements and demand his arrest by Delhi Police.

The alumni association of the Delhi School of Social Work (DSSW) has condemned BJP leader Kapil Mishra for tarnishing the respected institute’s image with his “provocative acts and communal statements”.

In a statement issued by the association, its President, Anish Kumar and General Secretary, Ajay Vijay Rahulwad said, “Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi has played an eminent role in addressing the worst situations which occurred during 1947 Partition riots and thereafter in 1984 Sikh Riots. Since 1946 till date, the Social Work Department of Delhi University has given many social workers, activists, academicians, directors, leaders, writers, and bureaucrats to the country who are trying to bring positive changes in the society through their works.”

“…We also have a blot such as our Alumni BJP Leader Kapil Mishra, who has organized recent Delhi riots and incited mob to disturb communal harmony of the city.” In past 3-4 days, the community fabric has been systemically targeted to be destroyed in favour of communalism, and as a consequence of that; many people have lost their lives, thousands of people have lost their homes and livelihood. The mental, emotional and psychological trauma that will stem from these events will be too catastrophic for all the survivors.

“We are ashamed of Kapil Mishra and also that he studied Social Work in our college. The image of our department and social work profession has been tarnished due to his provocative acts and communal statements”, the press release stated. The DSSW fraternity affirms its stance against the hatred, violence and communalism spread by Kapil Mishra who has maligned their profession. They demand Delhi Police to arrest him and take strict action against all such individuals.

Speaking to The Wire, Anish Kumar, president, DSSW alumni association, said, “The association will never invite him and even if he comes some day, we shall protest. As of now, we are working towards providing relief to the affected persons and the victims’ families in Delhi. We are working towards rehabilitating the riot affected. We are also spreading the message of mutual love and brotherhood.”

Kumar said, “Even the Delhi high court asked police to file an FIR against those who are involved in inciting the violence. When the court asked police why there was no FIR against Mishra, it said it is not the right time to do so. It means police is also accepting that Mishra has a role to play but they will not file an FIR against him as of now.”

“We will soon run a campaign and an event with the caption ‘Get Well Soon Kapil Mishra’,” he added.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Paridhi Puri

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After days of sustained violence in Jaffrabad, Seelampur, and other parts of North East Delhi, students of Delhi University (DU) hold a protest gathering at Arts Faculty to protest against the communal violence perpetrated by in these areas.

On 23rd February 2020, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad had called a Bharat Bandh in favour of reservations and against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Register of Citizen (NRC), and National Population Register (NPR) exercise, in response to which women of Seelampur and Jaffrabad organized a Chakka Jam on the same day. The violence perpetrated by rioters allegedly associated with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on the same day, and with the violence sustaining till now, many are calling the riots a state sponsored pogrom of the muslim community and the protestors against CAA, with the police acting as silent bystanders while Delhi burns at the hands of the rioters.

On the morning of 25th February, Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) organised a protest gathering against the state sponsored violence in Northeast Delhi. Beginning at 1:30 p.m, the protest had various speakers from the affected areas, students, and performances from DU Theatre societies.

Shaurya, a student pursuing Masters in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, who had been volunteering at the protest sight for the last month, shared, “ the incidents that took place yesterday are commonly being blamed by the media on one identified gunman who has been arrested, who does belong to the Muslim community. Hence the media is blaming the community as a whole for inciting violence. This is not a riot between two communities, but a orchestrated plan by the RSS and the government acting in collusion with the police force aiding the rioters. The violence began two days ago when Kapil Mishra went to Maujpur- Babarpur with a team of RSS supporters and invited violence and started stone pelting.”

Talking about yesterday, when the levels of violence reached a new level with arson and shootings, he said, “Yesterday, RSS leaders in these areas clearly incited violence, with no police action being taken even after multiple calls being made to them, along with perpetrators being identified on video footage, the police did not act.  A group of concerned citizens from various groups met the Joint Commissioner of police who said that the investigation had not yet led to any conclusive results and refused to send any police to the area. Therefore, it is important to identify that this is  a state orchestrated attack against muslims who are protesting against the NRC-CAA-NPR.”

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Prabhanu Kumar Das

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Image source: The Times of India

Being Indian never meant easy answers. Not for the ancient people who lived in their little kingdoms and certainly not for us; the twenty-first century web-savvy young Indian who thinks the world could not have been better. A few weeks ago as the violence broke out in my home district and its adjoining areas I received calls from my panicking friends and even seniors. Then we started talking about it. It seemed to me there and then that no one had ever come up with the definition of an Indian for a very good reason: there isn’t one.

The identity of the Indian here is not to be confused with any historical truths or claims. The idea here is to explore the fragile bond that we share in this nation where the diversity often translates into pure ignorance and indifference that borders upon insensitivity. I remember a minister in Punjab coming up with the ingenious idea of solving the problem of too many stray dogs by sending them to the Northeast while in the Northeast, the people of ‘mainland’ India often feel ‘different’. My friend’s father who often travels there tells me that people there call her dad ‘Indian’. How strange the ideas must be on both sides of the spectrum. To add to this is the insecurity regarding some illegal immigrants from faraway Bangladesh coming to take away economic opportunities. Is it any wonder that violence is still considered one of the best examples of defence mechanism? Certainly not.

Even though many have characterized the violence in Assam as communal, it couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The fact is, this violence broke out as a turf war to be precise. The Bodo community felt that Bangladeshi migrants were taking their lands and this is where the insecurity built up to an unfortunate climax of inhuman violence. To be very honest here, those who were showing this to be the ‘second Godhra’ or something similar in the national media, forgot that a considerable number of the Bodos are actually Christian. So, where does the question of communal violence come from? And the amusing scenario that unfolded was more or less tragic. The people, notably public figures in Lower Assam, promptly ‘supported’ the violence as a ‘defence mechanism’. Perhaps this is where the question of humanity comes up in this case. Does the fact that they are allegedly ‘illegal’ take away their basic human right to stay alive? The haunting pictures of displaced figures from both sides in the aftermath loom like long shadows on the famed pillars of the fragile Indian democracy.

There are no direct answers to what the government should do or should not do. As an Indian, the evidence that rumors of communal violence can result in a mass exodus makes me question the basis on which the identity of ‘being’ an Indian start. It does not matter from where the rumor started and banning SMSs can hardly answer that major question for us. For north easterns who live away from home, this becomes a conflict of relating to the larger issue, I think. On one hand we are always classed as the ‘other’ type of Indians. On the other hand when violence like this breaks out, we become figures who either receive pity or looked upon as the persecuted. The issues that came out with this violent outbreak in lower Assam can be categorized as:

  1. A question of basic identities. Who is what ‘type’ of Indian? Isn’t it surprising that when violence breaks out in Assam, the entire Northeastern community goes through a phase of uncertainty?
  2. A question of existence. If a simple rumor mill has resulted in an exodus of people from one part of the country to another, how much faith should one have regarding the nation’s integrity?

We have long roads to cover before we answer these questions. For now, as the violence stops we too stop questioning. But till what time shall that happen?


Priyam Goswami