Abdul Bari Masoud delves deep into the surge of communal violence that erupted last week during the Ram Navami processions in various States, including Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, etc., and discovers a pattern in all these incidents perpetrated in a well-organised and coordinated manner.
Communal violence is not a new phenomenon in India, but the way religious festivals are being exploited to instigate and manufacture violence in a well-organised and coordinated manner is terrifying. And the country’s head of the government’s eloquent silence and the alleged complicity of local administration is also a matter of grave concern.
Furthermore, properties of people suspected of being “rioters,” almost all of whom are from the minority population, have been demolished in Madhya Pradesh without due process of law. This is nothing more than a blatant disregard for Indian law and the Constitution. The demolition of Muslim properties seems to be a new weapon of fascist forces to cow down the community and to deter them from any defence in the face of violent attacks.
The latest surge of communal violence that has erupted during the Ram Navami processions in various States – Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and others – is a major source of concern. As reports suggest, there is a nefarious pattern in the places where these incidents have occurred. The forceful armed religious processions unleashing communal violence were preceded by incendiary hate speeches.
There have been some really offensive incidents, such as when a saffron flag was put atop a mosque in the presence of the police in Bihar. On the JNU campus in Delhi, the Sangh Parivar-affiliated ABVP attacked mess employees in a dormitory canteen in the name of Ram Navami to prevent them from serving non-vegetarian food, and subsequently attacked students who came to their rescue.
WHAT HAPPENED IN KHARGONE
On April 10, when the Ram Navami parade was being carried out, members of the Muslim community apparently objected to the music being played in the celebratory march, escalating the situation and resulting in stone pelting.
According to reports, for more than 10 hours, the Hindutva mob pelted stones in Muslim mohalla while policemen were allegedly seen helping them. A video also surfaced in the social media about the incident.
The authorities demolished 16 houses and 29 shops, mostly owned by members of the Muslim minority, citing their involvement in the violence as the reason.
Four families sought refuge in an abandoned mosque-turned-cowshed in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, after their homes were razed by the district administration on Monday, April 12th.
“We have been living here ever since our houses were destroyed. People nearby provide us with food and neighbours have been helping us as well,” Shehzad Khan, whose home was destroyed in the demolition drive, told a website.
Another resident, Amjad Khan’s house was also demolished. This house was built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).
So far, 104 people have been arrested in connection with the communal violence. All of them are Muslims. The police action, however, did not surprise many because it had previously been hinted at by the state’s political leadership, who had already blamed the disturbances entirely on the minority population, claiming that the riots erupted after the demonstration was attacked.
Only one Muslim complainant has filed one of the 26 FIRs (first information reports) in the last two days.
Tilak Singh, the Indore Division’s Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), revealed that 104 people had been apprehended, with 70 of them being sent to prison.
When asked why only one FIR has been filed by Muslims, he stated that the minority community does not come out to file complaints for case registration.
Locals, on the other hand, claim that a climate of terror has been fostered, and that as a result, Muslim complainants are not going to police stations to register FIRs. They are frightened that if they approach the police, they may be arrested.
In neighbouring state Rajasthan’s small town Karauli, right-wing youth groups held a bike rally on April 2. To commemorate Chaitra Pratipada Nav Samvatsar, they named it Shobha Yatra. The bike rally, which included roughly 200 motorcycles and 400 men dressed in saffron scarves, was held in Karauli after receiving consent from the District administration.
When they were allegedly stoned by some individuals near a mosque in Hatwara, the gathering quickly devolved into a riot-like atmosphere, with some alleging that ugly slogans and songs like “Topi Wala bhi sur jhuka kar, Jai Shree Ram bolega” were sung long before the stone-pelting began.
And in no time, the singing and stone-pelting escalated into full-fledged mayhem, and Karauli was on fire.
In the violence, 37 Muslim shops were burned, destroyed or robbed, ten street vendor carts were set on fire, and seven Hindu shops were also set on fire.
According to Abrar, a local activist, the failure of law and order was compounded by the government’s silence on the problem.
“Based on what we saw two days prior to the event, I believe it was a targeted attack or pre-planned violence. We saw Hindu stores marked with the bhagwa (orange) flag two days before the gathering. We couldn’t have raised any doubts or suspicions about it since it’s their belief, but now it all makes sense why they were tagged,” Abrar explained.
Locals were not involved, according to Abrar, who believes that a majority of those present at the event were strangers rather than Karauli residents.
“Because they were not natives, 90 per cent of those who participated in the event were said to be on drugs. There’s no chance the folks who robbed and damaged the shops are locals or live in our region because Karauli is famed for its brotherhood and social peace. A video shows that they all were outsiders who have been drugged,” Abrar said.
Some Hindus reportedly celebrated Ram Navami on April 10 at Himmatnagar, Sabarkantha district, north Gujarat, some 90 kilometres north of Ahmedabad, by wielding swords as part of the parade. Locals said that the Hindu men allegedly engaged forcefully with local Muslims as the procession entered Ashraf Nagar, a Muslim-dominated enclave between two Hindu neighbourhoods, Shakti Nagar and Mahavir Nagar.
Slurs were apparently exchanged as Muslims watched the procession from their terraces, and Hindus accused Muslims of ridiculing their festivals, according to the local Muslims. This escalated into a bloodbath, causing more devastation in other parts of Himmatnagar.
After that, members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal forcibly led a rally into Muslim-dominated areas, despite Himmatnagar’s ‘A division’ police first refusing to allow another Ram Navami rally. Videos from the day are circulating online, showing a crowd of 1,000-1,200 Hindus surrounded by police. Later, as stone pelting and burning became increasingly common, the police were forced to use tear gas to disperse the mob, and Section 144 was imposed in the city, prohibiting gatherings of more than three individuals in one location.
Khambat, in the Anand district, was also the scene of violence. According to the Police, an unidentified body was discovered in Anand. Both towns have reported stone-pelting and arson.
According to Hozefa Ujjaini, a social activist, the violence in Himmatnagar and Khambat on Sunday was patterned after the violence in Rajasthan’s Karauli, when Muslim homes were set ablaze. On Holi, Muslims in Sandheli, a village 100 kilometres from Himmatnagar, faced harassment, violence, and anti-Muslim slurs, he recounted.
The incident’s proximity to Ram Navami, Ramadan, and Gujarat assembly elections, which are only seven months away, suggests polarisation politics, as religion-based mobilisation takes centre stage in Gujarat once more.
On April 9, Hindutva activists from the Sri Ram Sene vandalised Muslim-owned businesses in Dharwad, damaging fresh fruits and vegetables on carts.
According to the Deccan Herald, the most recent episode of anti-Muslim violence occurred on the premises of the Nuggikeri Anjaneya Temple.
Journalist Harish Upadhya posted videos from the ground, showing watermelons strewn across the street.
Upadhya has tweeted that the local cops failed to apprehend the criminals and has uploaded a video that he has transcribed. In footage, a Hindutva supporter wearing a saffron scarf is heard telling a cop that the Muslim merchants had been handed an “ultimatum.” They may have tipped off the cops, according to the officer.
The activities of the Dharwad Hindutva group come only days after Chandru Moger, coordinator of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti in Bengaluru, urged Hindus to buy fruits only from Hindu sellers in order to “help eliminate the Muslim monopoly in the fruit business.”
Following Hindutva parties’ calls for prohibitions on halal meat and the use of loudspeakers in mosques during Azan, there is a renewed clamour for a Muslim economic boycott.
There were clashes during a Ram Navami parade in Howrah’s Shibpur neighbourhood. The situation is under control, according to police, who have taken precautions to preserve tranquilly. The state’s opposition party, the BJP, stated that the police attacked the procession.
During a Ram Navami procession in Lohardaga, Jharkhand, stone-pelting was reported, prompting a strong police presence. Several persons are said to have been hurt.
On April 10, 2022, right-wing goons targeted the Kaveri Hostel at Jawaharlal Nehru University. According to reports, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) barged into the mess when food was being cooked and began manhandling and beating people because the food was not vegetarian. The mess serves non-vegetarian meals on a regular basis. The ABVP is said to have protested the meal being prepared and threatened students with violence. As a result, a number of students were hurt.
ROLE OF ADMINISTRATION
The role of administrations in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar are highly suspect as they gave permission for such processions to pass through minority areas without adequate preparations. In addition, in Madhya Pradesh without the due process of law, properties of those accused of being “rioters”, almost all of them from the minority community, have been demolished. Disregarding the oath of the Constitution, the MP Home Minister Narottam Mishra openly said the houses of those pelting stones would be demolished, and some business structures will be bulldozed.
A former Union Minister from Madhya Pradesh, on the condition of anonymity, told Radiance that there is power struggle going on between the Chief Minister Chouhan and Mishra as both want to demonstrate their competitive communalism to Amit Shah. He said Khargone district is 80 per cent tribal dominated area and tribal people do not consider themselves in the Hindu fold and the last time in the 2018 assembly election Congress won 8 seats from here.
AMNESTY ON KHARGONE DEMOLITION
Responding to reports of demolition of largely Muslim-owned shops and houses in Khargone, Aakar Patel, Chair of Amnesty International India Board, said:
“Over the last few days, the country has witnessed some deeply disturbing events related to anti-Muslim attacks and hate speech. On top of it, the authorities’ unlawful action of demolishing private property of people suspected of rioting, allegedly without notice or other due process requirements is a major blow to the rule of law. A majority of the demolished properties are owned by Muslims. Such punitive demolition of family homes of suspects could also amount to collective punishment, in violation of International Human Rights Law.”
He asked the authorities to set up an impartial and transparent investigation into the demolitions immediately.
“The authorities must urgently carry out a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the demolitions and ensure that those responsible for fanning violence and vandalism are brought to justice through fair trials. Victims must be provided with effective remedy. It is the duty of the state to protect all people within its jurisdiction, including minority communities,” said Akar Patel.
CPI (M) SLAMS DEMOLITION
Speaking with Radiance, CPI (M) general secretary Sitram Yechury termed the demotion of Muslim properties as nothing but bulldozing the law and the Constitution of India. He also questioned the deafening silence of the Prime Minister even though such incidents have occurred in seven states adds to the concern that these events have the patronage of those in power.
OPPOSITION DEMANDS STERN ACTION
Meanwhile, for the first time, 13 opposition parties issued a combined statement asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to take strong action against perpetrators of the country’s communal violence. They also questioned the PM’s deafening silence, claiming he neglected to speak out against individuals who perpetuate prejudice through their words and acts. They also appealed to people to maintain peace and harmony.
Top opposition leaders including Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Sitram Yechury, Mamata Banerjee, M K Stalin, Hemant Soren, D Raja, Tejashwi Yadav and Farooq Abdullah condemned the recent outburst of communal violence witnessed across several states in the country.
“We strongly condemn the recent outburst of communal violence witnessed across several states in the country. We are deeply concerned, as reports indicate that there is a sinister pattern in the areas where these incidents have occurred. Incendiary hate speeches preceded the aggressive armed religious processions unleashing communal violence.”
They also came down heavily on the PM saying he kept silent over the unsavoury incidents which brought bad repute to the country at the international level.