The issue of Land Jihad and illegal Mazars has become a burning problem in Uttarakhand. It has been observed that large tracts of land, including forest land, have been illegally captured by Islamist elements. Recently, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had given a stern statement regarding the illegal Mazars built through land encroachment in the state. Since then, there has been an uproar in political corridors.
Mazar or dargah is a shrine for a Muslim religious leader, which could be a conquering Ghazi (Muslim fighter) or Sufi mystic.
On one hand, the BJP is praising the government’s decision, while on the other hand, the opposition is predictably trivializing this as a ‘political stunt’. Not only this, the Uttarakhand Pradesh Congress has also held a press conference regarding this issue and instructed its leaders not to participate in any ‘religious debate’ on TV channels.
The Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand have huge forests like Rajaji National Park and Jim Corbett National Park. Due to these, about 60 percent of the state is covered with forests. In the last few years, human encroachment is said to be taking place on this forest land. Illegal religious structures are being built here, a trend encouraged by ‘secular’ parties in the past for votebank politics.
Regarding these illegal occupations, the Uttarakhand Forest Department prepared a list of illegal Mazar built on its land at the end of the year 2022. As per official sources, thousands of illegal Mazars were marked on the forest land in the entire state.
Even a high-profile protected area like Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve could not escape from the clutches of the encroachers. Many Mazars and cemeteries have been built within Corbett Park in Dhela, Jhirna, Kalagarh, Bijrani, Sarpadulli, and Sonanadi ranges. Till a few years back there was only one Mazar in this area, which is known as ‘Thapli Baba’s Mazar’. But five more Mazars have been built here in recent years.
Similarly, multiple Mazars have also been made in compartment number 11 and compartment number 8 of the Bijrani zone. Two illegal Mazars have been made in compartment number 7, while 5 illegal Mazars have been constructed in the Dhela range as well.
The Uttarakhand government claims it is taking ‘strong action’ to remove all these illegal encroachments from its land. Till March this year, the forest department has removed and vacated the encroachments of hundreds of illegal Mazars built on its land, while further action is being taken.
Recently, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had given a strict message to those who build Mazars in the name of Islam. He had said that the state government will not tolerate any kind of encroachment. He said that such constructions should be removed and strict action will be taken against the guilty.