India’s Uttar Pradesh government 'threatens' Muslims living around the Gorakhnath temple to leave their houses, citing 'security' reasons.
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)-led Uttar Pradesh government is allegedly planning to remove dozens of houses around the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur.
As per the government's reasoning, the decision has been taken “for the deployment of police forces to provide a security cover to the temple.”
But several reports have emerged saying Muslim residents have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government, fearing the wrath of Hindu extremist groups.
“The officials told us that if we do not sign the letter, they have other ways to get our signatures as well. We were pressured,” Javaid Akhter, 71, who has been living in an ancestral house built by his grandfather near the temple, told Al Jazeera.
Shahnawaz Alam, state president of the opposition Congress’s minority cell, said: “The administration has forcibly got the consent letter signed asking Muslim families to vacate the land, who have been settled there for 125 years on the south-eastern corner of Gorakhnath Math.”
The issue came out in public when a copy of a consent letter made rounds on social media on May 28. The contents of the letter read:
“In line with the government’s decision for the deployment of police force in the Gorakhnath temple area for providing security to the Gorakhnath temple, we, the undersigned residents of village Old Gorakhpur Tappa, Qasba Pargana Haveli, Tehsil Sadar Janpad, Gorakhpur, situated on the south-east corner of the Gorakhnath temple, have agreed to transfer our land and houses to the government. We have no objection whatsoever. Regarding our consent in the matter, please find our signatures below.”
There are dozens of families living around the temple. On the south side, there are nearly eleven Muslim families. Out of 11, nine have signed the MoU.
A resident, Javaid Akhter, also criticised the local authorities for "threatening to impose NSA(National Security Act) charges against journalists reporting the matter.”
The 11th-century temple is located across 52 acres of land. It is rooted in the Shaivite tradition of Hinduism.
Earlier this month the Uttar Pradesh government demolished a mosque that predates the establishment of the Indian state by decades, according to the Guardian.
Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk, a close ally of Modi’s, is known for his anti-Muslim views.
The saffron-clad Adityanath has in the past referred to Indian Muslims as a "virus."
The firebrand Hindu nationalist has also led mobs against the state's increasingly beleaguered Muslim minority.