Radicalization concerns have gripped the Himachal town, which witnessed the brutal murder of 15-year-old Prachi Rana. Newspaper vendor Asif Mohammad murdered the class 10 student for resisting his advances. Swarajya Mag journalist Swati Goel Sharma’s ground report highlights how residents of the town are worried about rising Islamic radicalization.
Such brutality is never heard in towns such as Amb, and locals fear that such instances would only increase going forward, given the growth in radicalization. Residents have already staged two protests within two weeks. The locals staged the first agitation on the day Asif was arrested. It was against the ‘ill-treatment’ of Prachi’s family, while the second one on April 15 was to protest the ‘weak case’ made against Asif.
Locals alleged Amb station in-charge Ashish Pathania pushed away and abused Prachi’s uncle Jeevan when the latter slapped Asif as he was being taken away by the police. They added that Pathania even detained Jeevan for several hours. “Head constable at Amb Police Station Davinder Jaswal denied anything of this sort happened. However, locals say they are telling the truth”, noted Sharma.
Bajrang Dal (BD) Tehsil Head Sanjeev Chauhan pointed out that residents participated in considerable numbers in the April 15 protest organized by the local BD unit. Several locals who participated in the protest have demanded a speedy trial and capital punishment for Asif.
As per the Swarajya Report, “Himachal is heavily Hindu populated. The 2011 Census pegged the Muslim population at a little more than 2 percent. Una district has more Muslims than other districts, and it is Amb Tehsil where the Muslim density is maximum”.
Sanjeev Chauhan said the influence of outsiders and growing radicalization among local Muslims necessitated the BD unit and holding Hindu Dharmic events such as Dharm Sansad. “It all started in 2020 when, during the first lockdown, we pulled out hundreds of jamaatis from mosques in Amb. They had attended the Delhi jamaat and were living here secretly, without any knowledge of the local police or administration. As we all know, they were spreading corona in India,” he added.
Chauhan also pointed out that local Muslims traditionally worshipped Hindu deities, visited temples, and dressed up and spoke the same language as the Hindus. However, now they wear white kurtas and ankle-length pajamas instead. They have also started sporting long beards without mustaches, a scarf around their necks, and skull caps. Women, too, have begun wearing burqas. A lot of mosques with residential facilities have come up.
Another indication of Muslim radicalization was witnessed during the hijab row when a Muslim Gujjar girl in Amb had turned up at her school sporting the hijab. The school prohibited any violation of uniform rules. Another Amb resident, ex-Navy officer Kalidas said that the residents got together to stop azaan on loudspeakers. “Such things were unheard of in Amb. No mosques had loudspeakers. When we noticed this was becoming a trend, we got it stopped”, he told Swati Goel Sharma.
The rise in ‘grooming’ cases is another indicator of growing radicalization. Last year, a college student, Aarti, had eloped with migrant laborer Mohammed Kaleem hailing from UP’s Muzaffarnagar. A couple of years ago, one Ekta Jaswal had eloped with Meerut native Mohammad Sadiq. Within a week, Sadiq and his family looted the gold and cash Ekta had brought and killed her. Six family members, including women, are facing trial for Ekta’s murder but are currently out on bail.
According to locals, the murder of Prachi is the ‘ultimate signal’ to residents that radical Islamism has made its base in Himachal. “This murder will embolden the fanatics. Brace for more such crimes in Himachal,” says Chauhan.
(Featured Image Source: DNA India)