Unanswered Calls: Himachal Government and Congress Silence Amid Muslim’s Shop Vandalism at Nahan

Sidra Fatima, TwoCircles.net

Nahan (Himachal Pradesh): On June 19, a day after Eid al-Adha, a garment shop in the Himachal Pradesh city of Nahan was vandalized and looted allegedly by Hindutva groups. This followed after the shop owner’s WhatsApp status featured photos of an animal sacrifice. Despite police presence, a mob forcibly entered the shop, threw out clothes and chanted slogans like “Ek Hi Nara, Ek Hi Naam, Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram” (One slogan, One name, Victory to Lord Rama, Victory to Lord Rama). The police intervention came only after significant damage had been inflicted on the shop.

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The incident began on June 18 when groups such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP — a right-wing student organisation affiliated to the Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the Traders Association stirred unrest in the town.

These groups issued warnings to shop owners and residents not to lease their premises to Muslims from outside and demanded immediate eviction of Muslim tenants. They also filed a police complaint, alleging their religious sentiments were offended by the photographs and demanded strict action against the shopkeeper.

On June 19, these organizations called for a town shutdown and gathered in large numbers at the local market.

A video depicting the looting went viral, sparking widespread criticism on social media. Many have accused the state government and its police of complicity in the violence.

Radhika Govindrajan, an author and anthropologist at the University of Washington, pointed out the apparent complicity of the state, noting that the police stood by and watched the mob’s actions.

“Anti-Muslim violence has sadly become all too common across the Central Himalayas. The state’s complicity is glaringly evident in the video where the police merely stood aside while the mob ran amok,” the author posted on microblogging site ‘X’.

Fatima Khan, a journalist who analysed the incident, remarked on the intense communal anger she witnessed in parts of Himachal Pradesh during recent elections. “Men sitting in groups calmly would start to froth from the mouth, repeating rhetoric typical of anti-Muslim WhatsApp messages,” she said, describing the incident as fueled by anti-Muslim sentiments.

Addressing the issue at a press conference, Bobby Khan, head of the Nahan-based Muslim group Anjuman Islamia, condemned the organizations for spreading hatred among Nahan’s residents. He stated, “Four to five shops were vandalized, and over a dozen people left town out of fear. This is India, where everyone has the right to operate their business anywhere. How can you call for Muslims to be removed from Himachal? What about their livelihoods? How will they support their families?”

Adding to the voices of concern, a resident of Saharanpur (who chose to remain anonymous), a relative of one of the shopkeepers in Nahan, shared her distress, “My brother lived alone in the city to earn a living and support our family. He returned home a few days before Eid al-Adha, and now we are too scared to let him go back. His shop was our sole source of income. We have been fearing something like this could happen any time given the rising tensions. If he returns, he could be robbed, harmed or vandalized simply because he is Muslim. He has a wife and children to care for. How do we manage now? How can we live in constant fear for our lives? Our livelihood has been destroyed, and we feel abandoned and unsafe.”

In the aftermath of these events, new information has come to light. Contrary to the mob’s claims, a police investigation revealed that Javed, the shop owner, had sacrificed a buffalo, which is legally permissible in Uttar Pradesh.

Mohammed Zubair, a fact-checker and co-founder of AltNews, exposed the disinformation spread by right-wing online accounts that incited the attack under false pretenses. Despite the revelation, Javed has been charged by the police for posting a photo of the sacrificed animal, accused of stirring communal sentiments due to the graphic nature of the image. The superintendent of police in Shamli (UP) confirmed to the media that the animal sacrifice was lawful and that the photo was misinterpreted, leading to the filing of the FIR against Javed.

“The image shared on social media was somewhat disturbing, hence an FIR has been lodged for inciting communal sentiments,” he told reporters. Javed was subsequently arrested by the Shamli police on June 22, based on the FIR against him.

Social media users are holding the Himachal government and police accountable for allowing the violence to occur, while criticism is also directed at the ruling Congress party for its perceived inaction. This incident has highlighted escalating communal tensions and the dangers of misinformation on social harmony.