By: Ishita Goel
June 15 2023
Police have confirmed that it was a street fight. No communal angle was involved in the altercation between the mule operators and pilgrims.
Kedarnath, a town in Uttarakhand, is known for its temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. With heavy footfall, the town hosts people from around the world who complete a yatra or pilgramage to visit the temple shrine.
A video from the pedestrian route of the Kedarnath yatra showing women and young adults being verbally abused and physically assaulted using sticks by some people has gone viral. Users are claiming that the attackers hitting the pilgrims are Muslims.
Several others shared the video with a communal angle, claiming that it showed an incident of "Muslim terror in Kedarnath" and that Muslim horse and mule owners are assaulting pilgrims. Mules and horses are a common mode of transport to reach the temple that entails a long uphill trek.
However, while the incident is true, the communal spin being lent to it is false.
News agency ANI Uttarakhand on June 14 reported, "A case has been registered against horse and mule operators who assaulted the devotees on their way to Kedarnath: Rudraprayag Police Uttarakhand."
On June 14, The Times of India published a report on the incident. It noted that the argument broke out because the devotees sought help for an injured horse and objected to the horses allegedly being hit. In light of their objection, the horse owners attacked the pilgrims.
We also found a detailed update on the incident on the official Facebook account of District Rudraprayag Police (Uttarakhand). It stated that a complaint made on June 12 claimed that two days prior, a Delhi resident found an injured horse in a bad condition during the climb to the shrine. While seeking help, the pilgrim reportedly questioned a person seen hurting other animals.
According the the complaint, it was then a "crowd of horse operators came, and 4-5 people started thrashing and abusing them; others who came to their rescue were also beaten, and they were warned to leave Uttarakhand." Further, it stated that a request to cancel their license for operations has also been made by the concerned department.
Uttarakhand Police tweeted that the accused have been arrested, and case was registered at Kotwali Sonprayag. They stated that the five accused were Ankit Singh, Santosh Kumar, Gautam, and Rohit Kumar, and a minor against whom action was taken separately.
Logically Facts contacted Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Guptkashi, Vimal Singh Rawat, for clarification. Rawat said that the devotees were coming up for visit to Kedarnath and "on the way, they had an altercation with the mule operators on a certain issue, so the mule operators charged back at them and started fighting, as seen in the public domain." In all, four to five people involved in the video have been arrested, an FIR has been lodged, and legal proceedings have been started, he added.
Rawat also told Logically Facts that "there was no communal angle, that all people involved came up for darshan (prayer), so there's no Muslim or any other angle involved. It was just a street fight, and the Uttrakhand police have addressed it."
Reports show that the devotees and mule operators argued after the former objected to the operator misbehaving with animals. The police statement and the names of the accused show that there was no communal angle to the incident. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.