Riots And Riots

Report on Communal Violence


Lord Ram and other Hindu symbols were manipulated and misused by Hindu right wing political outfits to spread violence and assert domination over Muslims in the month of January, 2024. According to the monthly monitoring of communal violence conducted by Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS), four out of the five communal riots that took place in the month of January were directly related to the PranPratisthan in Ayodhya. Out of these four communal riots, two were reported in Mumbai and Nagpur, Maharashtra, one in Vadodara in Gujarat and lastly in Madhya Pradesh- all in BJP ruled states. It is important to mention here that in 2022 and 2023, 28 communal riots took place around India, directly related to Ram Navami processions.

The role of hate speeches is significant in fomenting communal tensions and riots. Seven instances of hate speeches were reported in the media in the month of January. These hate speeches broadly called for demolition of mosques, made baseless allegations of love jihad inciting hatred against Muslims, boycott of halal certification meat, use of bulldozers against Muslims and called for stricter action against Muslims after communal riots in Mira Road. The hate speeches were made by BJP leaders, MLA T Raja and MLA NiteshRane in Solapur and Mumbai in Maharashtra, MLA Geeta Jain in Mumbai and Anant Kumar Hegde, BJP Member of Parliament and BJP leader KS Eshwarappa from Karnataka. The hate speeches deepened prejudices against the Muslims.

Communal riots coinciding with PranPratisthan were used as a pretext to invite demolitions of properties belonging to Muslims. Mundane day to day altercations were given a communal turn and deliberately projected as major incidents warranting and inviting “collective punishment” for the Muslims. For instance, the communal tension in Mira Road, Mumbai was very minor, mainly fueled by political ambitions of the local leaders trying to project these tensions as big communal riots and inviting demolition. Similarly, in Panvel, Mumbai, there was report of sloganeering on 22nd January but there were demands of demolitions of properties of Muslims in Panvel.

The public discourse in India in the month of January was largely dominated by the carefully constructed narrative around the AyodhyaPranPratisthan which marked a steady religionisation of the Indian socio-political landscape promoted by state. The consecration of Lord Ram in the Ayodhya temple on 22nd January saw unprecedented promotion of a religious event by the state. For instance, ten BJP ruled states- Maharashtra, Gujarat, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Tripura in addition to AAP ruled Delhi, declared a complete holiday or half day holiday to celebrate the PranPratisthan. This implied that schools, colleges and government offices amongst other state establishments remained closed on that day. Some of these state governments also prohibited sale of non-vegetarian food items, meat and alcohol on that day.

Additionally, it’s noteworthy that the state continued to spend public funds on the promotion of heritage associated with Hindu gods and symbols to the exclusion of heritage associated with other religions. Some of the examples include the curating of a wax museum in Ayodhya on the theme of Ramayana, Chhattisgarh’s ‘Shri RamlalaDarshan (AyodhyaDham)’ scheme and Odisha’s Parikrama project in Puri. This trend coincides with another alarming trend of reclaiming places of worship of the Muslim community. In Maharashtra, Chief Minister EknathShinde has vowed to "liberate" Haji Malang Dargah. Similarly, after the Varanasi district Court order allowing puja inside the Gyanvapi mosque, within hours- 3am the following morning, the puja was performed in the “Vyas Tehkana”. It appears that the puja was conducted in a haste since the Gyanvapi masjid committee has moved the Allahabad high court challenging the Varanasi district court's order allowing the Hindu side to perform puja in 'Vyas Tehkana' or the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi structure. Thus, though puja was performed within hours when one week’s window was given to do the same to pre-empt any remedy the mosque committee could get from the High Court.

Emboldened by such actions endorsed by state, there is an evident rise of vigilante acts of Hindu right wing In Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur district for allegedly removing a flag from a mosque and replacing it with a saffron on 23rd January. Three men climbed on top of a mosque and removed the green flag there. They replaced it with a saffron flag with Jai Shri Ram written on it. They were arrested. In a similar incident, eleven miscreants hoisted saffron flags atop a mosque in the Tajganj area of Agra district during a shobhayatra on 22nd January. Agra police arrested them. A video of the incident was shot and made viral.

Additionally, demolitions continued to represent a weapon of hegemony to intimidate the Muslim community by using the trope of illegal encroachments. There were also reports of moral policing and violence against inter-faith couples, furthering the unsubstantiated claims of “love jihad”.

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Vol 56, No. 38, Mar 17 - 23, 2024