Uttarakhand HC says VHP–Bajrang Dal letter threatening a ‘particular community’ to leave certain parts of Uttarakhand does not refer to any community in particular

Refuses to issue directions to the state administration to file FIRs against signatories of the letter

A petition filed by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights argues that the failure of the Uttarakhand administration to act for 10 days on a threatening letter comes in breach of the Supreme Court’s mandate that the state must take suo motu action in instances of hate speech and communal violence. The letter, sent by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s affiliate Vishwa Hindu Parishad to the district police, paints a “particular community” as predators of land, women and culture, and gives an ultimatum to members of the community to vacate the region within 10 days or face mass action.


TODAY, an Uttarakhand High Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal refused to direct the state administration to register first information reports (FIRs) against the signatories of a letter giving ultimatum to ‘a particular community’ living in ‘certain belts of the state’ to vacate their homes.

While the high court emphasised that maintaining law and order is the paramount duty of the State, it stated that the court should not influence the duty of the district magistrate (DM) by directing them to file FIRs because that would mean that a cognisable offence has already been disclosed. The court stated that it is the duty of the police to find if a cognisable offence has taken place.

Advocate Shahrukh Alam, appearing for the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), told the court that the state government has registered FIRs against unidentified persons who have allegedly put up posters asking the Muslim community to close down their shops. 

But no FIRs have been registered against the signatories of the letters that have been publicly circulated. She requested that FIRs be filed against them as well.

Alam also argued that the letter presumes “lesser rights for Muslims” and the district authorities are in breach of the mandate of the Supreme Court in Shaheen Abdulla versus Union of India & Ors (2022) wherein it had ordered suo motu cognisance of such instances of hate speech and registration of FIRs by law enforcement agencies. 

Moreover, the contents of the letter clearly direct a threat to national integrity and cause disharmony, Alam told the court. Thus, Sections 15 (terrorist act) and 18 (punishment for conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) are attracted, she averred. 

However, the Chief Justice stated that the letter does not name any particular community. 

Also read: Supreme Court asks petitioner seeking intervention in Uttarakhand law and order situation to approach the high court

Alam replied that the letters have to be read with the posters and social media posts which are brimming with explicit anti-Muslim rhetoric. One of the social media posts, she pointed out, has been written by an author of the letter. 

The post clearly states that the person met the police and categorically informed the director general of police (DGP) that no efforts should be made for opening the closed shops in the Purola block, she clarified. Many Muslims have closed their shops in the block for fear of repercussions.

The state government’s counsel pointed out that the issue of the mahapanchayat has been contained by the intervention of the state administration. The court acknowledged the submission. It is to be noted that Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 has been imposed from June 14 till June 19 in the Purola town.

However, Alam contended that the imposition of Section 144 would only contain the immediate law and order situation but does not answer the structural violence that has been unleashed against the Muslim community. 

Alam told the court that structural violence is insidious and cuts deeper than simple law and order situations. It relates to the social and economic boycott faced by the community because of which normal life has not been resumed in the state. 

With respect to her submission that posters have been circulated asking Muslims to close their shops, the court said that no government order states that the community cannot open shops.

Yesterday, the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court Vipin Sanghi agreed to hear the petition after the Supreme Court’s vacation Bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah refused to entertain a petition seeking the court’s intervention in preventing communal violence in Uttarakhand.

The court granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the high court.

About the petition 

The petitioner APCR sought a writ of mandamus against the proposed mahapanchayat called by a Hindu right-wing group Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan.

The petition also sought directions to the Uttarakhand government to perform its statutory duty to placate a communally charged atmosphere and prevent communal violence. 

The petition states that the state administration must ensure that “no forced migration of citizens” from one area of the country to another takes place in the name of protecting the devbhoomi (land of the gods).

Also read: Hate crimes against minorities: ‘Where have we reached in the name of religion?,’ asks Supreme Court

The petition avers that there is a continuing mandamus of the Supreme Court Order in Shaheen Abdulla. The Order directed the Uttarakhand government to ensure that as and when any speech or any action takes place which attracts offences such as 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the ground of religion), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 505 (statement inducing to public mischief), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) of the IPC, suo motu action be taken to register an FIR even if no complaint is forthcoming. 

Despite the Order, the Uttarakhand state administration has given no regard to the law or the direction passed by the Supreme Court, the petition averred. 

According to the petition, one of the incidents which highlighted the ignorance of the state administration is that no action was taken after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and  youth-wing of the VHP, Bajrang Dal, sent a letter to the DM of Tehri Garhwal on June 5, giving an ultimatum of 10 days to a particular community to abandon their homes and occupations, and leave the “Jaunpur Valley”.

Not without precedence

Previously, the Supreme Court has elaborated the duty cast upon district authorities to pre-empt and prevent instances of organised hate speech which may result in violence. 

Also read: Dharam Sansad: Supreme Court reminds Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh governments about their duty to prevent hate speeches

During a dharam sansad (religious assembly) in Haridwar last year, similar narratives of “outsiders” and “jihadis” were peddled. At the time, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh directed that immediate and suo motu cognisance must be taken by the state authorities on such incidents of hate speech or communal violence without waiting for a formal complaint to be lodged.

About the petitioner 

The APCR is a non-governmental, not-for-profit civil rights group composed of advocates and social workers. The association provides legal aid to victims of illegal detention, custodial death, fake encounters, communal riots and other human rights violations.

Read a more detailed report, with contents of the letter, here.