Uttarakhand Government's Decree On 'Demographic Change' Sparked 'Serious Worries' Among Opposition

The AAP said that the BJP was "operating along the lines of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in Maharashtra."

Uttarakhand Government's Decree On 'Demographic Change' Sparked 'Serious Worries' Among Opposition
Uttarakhand Government's Decree On 'Demographic Change' Sparked 'Serious Worries' Among Opposition

The Uttarakhand government's decision to organise district-level committees to monitor "demographic changes" in select areas has sparked a political tempest in the state ahead of the state assembly elections next year. Both the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are accusing the BJP of "communal politics" ahead of the elections next year.

The government, in an official statement issued on Friday, stated that it had directed the state director general of police, all district magistrates, and senior superintendents of police to form district-level committees, prepare a list of "outsiders" and "attempts being made to vitiate communal harmony in the state," citing "serious concerns" over demographic changes in certain areas of Uttarakhand and "attempts being made to vitiate communal harmony in the state."

The statement stated that “due to unprecedented rise in population in certain areas of the state, the demography of those areas has been majorly affected. And due to this demographic change, members of certain communities are forced to migrate from those areas. Also, there are possibilities that the communal harmony in those areas may be disturbed.”

The Congress party has raised "severe reservations" over the government's decision. Harish Rawat, the party's national general secretary and a former chief minister, called for research on the "pace of population rise" to find a solution to problems like illiteracy and malnutrition, but warned against "targeting a particular community under its garb." 

“The population growth rate in southern India is lower than the national average. However, the rate is higher in places where illiteracy and malnutrition are more prevalent, particularly among the poor, regardless of religion.”

“If the government takes appropriate steps to control this, then we have no objection to that. But if it is done to target any particular community and area, then it is a matter of serious concern. And, if it is done to take some political benefit using the administration, then the seriousness of the matter increases more. We are against it,” said Rawat who is also the president of the party’s election campaign committee in the state.

Chauhan also blamed both BJP and Congress for the “misgovernance in the state for the last 21 years.” “If there is a situation where crime has escalated due to the settlement of criminal elements in the state, then only the BJP and Congress are to blame, as they have alternately administered the state since its formation. It's all due to their mismanagement. “The situation would improve once AAP comes to power,” Chauhan said, adding, “The move is purely election-centric.” 
Political analysts have also characterised the move as a politically motivated move by the government before the assembly elections. 
“The government issued the directive just months before the state assembly elections.

“The order has been given by the government only months before the state assembly elections. It simply signifies that the BJP wants to take political benefit by playing the communal card on the party’s national agenda. It is being done to demonise one community and polarise the society before the polls,” said political analyst SMA Kazmi.

Meanwhile, the BJP has denied the charges, claiming that it is a necessary measure for national security. “Identifying outsiders and figuring out what they're up to is a wise option. This exercise is aimed to ensure that such elements are recognised and are unable to disrupt Dev-communal Bhoomi's harmony,” said Devendra Bhasin, the party's state vice president. “Also, the order is for those from other countries who are living illegally in Uttarakhand after receiving fake voter ID cards and other government ID proofs,” he added. As a border state, this is a necessary step... It's not a political move at all.”