The demographic imbalance in Uttarakhand has become a cause of concern for the government and the administration of the state. In just 2 years, almost 400 new madarsas, mosques and religious institutions have mushroomed in the state of Uttarakhand. In May 2022, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced action against the mazars mushrooming everywhere in the state calling them encroachments.
It is a matter of concern that the burgeoning issue of illegal land encroachment is not only pervasive in some places but is slowly enveloping the whole state of Uttarakhand. Recently, OpIndia visited Ramnagar, another part of the same state, to delve into this issue further. To our horror, there were several mazars that have mushroomed up inside Jim Corbett National Park, one of the oldest and one of the most famous forested wildlife sanctuaries set amidst the foothills of the Himalayas in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand.
उत्तराखंड के रामनगर रानीखेत मार्ग पर बाघों के आश्रय के बीच भूरे शाह शेर अली जुल्फकार दादामियां की मजार.
विश्व प्रसिद्ध जिम कार्बेट पार्क से सटी हुई.
जहां इंसान भी नहीं रह सकता वहां भी मजार ?
शेर अली की मजार शायद शेरों के लिए होगी
— Rahul Pandey (Journalist) (@STVRahul) August 7, 2022
In June 2022, the OpIndia team reached Ramnagar from Delhi via Moradabad. From Ramnagar market, we proceed on Ranikhet road. In between, we saw several wildlife warning signs. After proceeding about 5 kilometres on this road, passing through the forests, the road appeared twisted in one place. On the winding road, we saw a big mazar (tomb), with its roof shaped like a house.
This Mazar had a large poster with the number ‘786’ and ‘Urs of Bhure Shah Sher Ali Zulfkar Dadmiyan’ inscribed on the top of it. The poster also read how more and more people are encouraged to attend the Urs.
We got down and tried to find out who the caretakers of that mazar were, but could spot anyone there.
Mazar located in the restricted area of Jhirna district in Uttarakhand
The following day, the OpIndia team entered Jim Corbett National Park. The park’s entrance gate was closed to visitors. It was only accessible to those who work for the forest department. Amidst the elephants, deers, tigers and other diverse animals, we found one obscure construction in middle of the forest reserve. Just 1 km into the Jhirna area of the National Park, we spotted another mazar. This particular mazar, which was constructed very close to the main road, looked well maintained. It was freshly painted and a ‘chadar’ had also been offered.
Our guide flatly refused to let us get out of the car at this location because it is a “tiger zone,” according to him. In such a situation, the thought occurred to us, Who then lights up this tomb?
When we enquired about the history of this mazar, our guide and driver were unable to provide any information. The two things that caught everyone by a surprise were the perfectly laid stones beneath the tomb and the ‘chadar’ placed on it by someone.
Tomb found deep inside jungles
We continued on our trip for about 45 minutes until we reached deep within the forest, where all that was visible were the towers of the Forest Department’s stations and yet another mazar. According to our guide, this location is thought to house the greatest concentration of tigers. At that location, we noticed some deer. A short distance away, a leopard was also spotted crossing the road. The other people who went on safari with us found it weird that there was a tomb there in such a setting.
We questioned the other jeep drivers about this mazar, but they were unable to provide any information. However, owing to the area where this mazar was located, it seemed that fewer people frequented this mazar. Though the mazar and the elevated area surrounding it appeared to be built of solid cement, both appeared worn-out and abandoned, suggesting no one had been maintaining it for a while.
As per the 2011 census, Muslims make up 12.65% of the total population of Uttarakhand’s Nainital district. When questioned, our tour guide told us how, over the last few years, the Muslim community had succeeded in developing a thriving business in the region. He further revealed how maximum cars used for jungle safaris are owned by members of the Muslim community.
Uttrakhand, also known as “the land of the gods” (Devbhoomi) because of its number of Hindu pilgrimage sites, has over the last few years, seen an unprecedented influx of Rohingyas and illegal immigrants that has led to a demographic imbalance in the state.
Swami Darshan Bharati explains how Uttarakhand is witnessing a rapid demographic shift
Recently, while speaking to OpIndia, Swami Darshan Bharti, a veteran saint working against illegal mazars and drug addicts, raised concerns about this radical problem plaguing the state of Uttarakhand.
Swami Darshan Bharati told OpIndia that the biggest boost to Muslim population in Uttarakhand came during the Congress government led by ND Tiwari. He said, “There has been a great sin in the ND Tiwari government. Under his government, the largest mosque in Uttarakhand was built on top of the temple of Naina Devi in Nainital. The mosque has been built on the road by completely encroaching upon it. The temple has also started to look small as compared to the mosque.”