From: Swati Goel Sharma < >

Dear reader,

Yesterday, I visited a quiet picturesque hill town in Himachal Pradesh. It almost broke my heart that the residents, who until now have led a largely relaxed life, away from the madness of congested cities and urban jungles, are shaken and feeling insecure even inside their homes.

Two weeks ago, a man named Asif Mohammed barged into the house of a minor girl, Prachi Rana, and slit her throat after she resisted him.

This happened in Amb tehsil of Una district in Himachal Pradesh, located at foothills of Shivalik range. The town of Amb derives its name from goddess Amba, who the hill folks revere.

Residents say the murder is an “ultimate signal” to them that radicalization has finally set up base in the hills of Himachal. For the past few years, the largely Hindu population has been witnessing a change amid them. Several new mosques have come up. The existing mosques have become bigger.

Maulanas from as far as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar stay for weeks and months in the mosques. Local Muslims, who are mostly from nomadic tribes such as Gujjar and Bakarwal, have traditionally worshipped Hindus deities including Amba, but are increasingly shunning these practices. They have begun sporting skull cap and burqa. Last year residents had a spat when loudspeakers were mounted atop mosques.

And now the murder.

Is the majority population being paranoid? Or is it alert to a problem that is consuming all of the Indian sub-continent?

Here is my ground report from Amb. Hill towns are not the kind of places where such crimes happen and life moves on, as usual.

Residents are alarmed, and this is just my humble effort to make them heard.

Swati Goel Sharma.

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