India: Muslims see wave of attacks, hate speech at Hindu festival | Religion news

Muslims in several Indian states are on edge after mob came out in processions, gave hate speeches and attacked their properties during the Hindu festival Ram Navmi.

Most of the violence was reported from the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and West Bengal on Sunday as the Hindu community celebrated the birthday of the god Ram, one of the main gods of right-wing Hindu groups in India.

Dozens of videos have gone viral on Indian social media since Sunday showing processions of Hindu men wearing saffron scarves – and in some cases carrying sticks and swords – stopping their motorcycles in Muslim neighborhoods and playing provocative songs filled with threats of genocide outside homes and mosques, and raise hate slogans.

In one of the videos, allegedly from the eastern part of Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, a man was seen climbing up a mosque wall and planting a saffron flag at the entrance, while others cheered, flashing swords and hockey sticks.

Al Jazeera has not independently verified the authenticity of these videos.

In some places, the provocations led to members of the minority community throwing stones at the processions, leading to tensions. In some cases, even police officers were seen joining the mob.

Some of the worst riots were reported from the Khargone district of central Madhya Pradesh state, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modis Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Fazluddin Shaikh, a resident of Khargone, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that a mosque in the Sarafa Bazar area was set on fire by a Hindu mob on Sunday night during the Ram Navmi march.

At least 10 houses were also set on fire, and more than 24 people, including a police officer, were injured in the violence that erupted in Khargone, forcing the administration to impose a curfew in some parts of the district.

Khargone District Collector Anugraha P told Al Jazeera on Monday that “the situation in the area was under control” and nearly 50 people belonging to both communities had been arrested.

Shaikh said, however, that two days after the incident, he was still “struggling to register” a report to police.

“At least 11 FIRs (initial information reports) have been registered against Muslims, and over 84 people have been rounded up, but police are not registering a case or arresting anyone from the majority community,” he said.

Madhya Pradesh’s Prime Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Monday that “the troublemakers have been identified”.

“Those who have thrown stones will be punished, but at the same time they will have to pay for the losses to both public and private property.”

Properties buried

On the same day, the Khargone district administration buried at least 16 houses and 29 shops – belonging to those accused of throwing stones at Ram Navmi processions – in five locations in the district, a report in The Indian Express newspaper said on Tuesday.

Balling Muslim homes and properties accused of crimes – even though a lawsuit is still pending in the courts – is a phenomenon seen before in BJP-governed states. The practice started in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, ruled by a harsh saffron-clad Hindu monk known for his hateful remarks against Muslims.

When Anugraha P was asked about bulldozing of properties, Al Jazeera said they were linked to “previous cases of encroachment”. She gave no further details.

Many Muslim leaders and activists have condemned the government for tarnishing the characteristics of the accused and questioning the legality of such measures.

“Under what law has the government of Madhya Pradesh demolished the houses of the Muslim community? It clearly shows (the Prime Minister’s) biased attitude towards Muslim minority,” parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi told India’s news agency ANI on Tuesday, calling it “a state-sponsored violence and serious violation of the Geneva Convention ”.

Incidents of violence during the Ram Navmi celebrations were also reported from Sendhwa, a town in the nearby Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh.

Shivraj Singh, a district collector in Barwani, told Al Jazeera over the phone on Monday that loud music played near a mosque provoked some Muslims who threw stones at a Ram Navmi procession, leading to clashes between the two groups. .

Singh added, however, that no restrictions had been imposed in the city and that the situation was “completely under control now”.

In the western state of Gujarat, also controlled by the BJP, incidents of violence were reported from the town of Khambhat in the Anand district and Himmatnagar in the Sabarkantha district on Sunday.

“We have detained seven people after the clashes and tight security measures have been put in place to prevent further tension,” MJ Chaudhari, a Khambat police official, told Reuters on Monday.

Media reports said a number of shops and vehicles were set on fire in Khambhat and Himmatnagar, where at least one person died in the violence.

In the southern state of Telangana, the hardline BJP legislator, T Raja Singh, participated in a Ram Navmi parade in which provocative slogans and songs were played. One of the songs played in the march said, “Those who do not take Ram’s name will have to leave the country.”

‘Well made and organized’

A similar pattern of hate speech against Muslims and violence was also reported in several other Indian states, including Jharkhand and West Bengal in the east – both states ruled by parties opposed to the BJP.

Owaisi, a southern Hyderabad lawmaker and leader of a political party, accused police of “provoking and participating” in the violence.

“In many places, Ram Navmi (procession) was used to make hateful speeches against Muslims,” ​​Owaisi tweeted.

Meanwhile, in the capital New Delhi, students belonging to a Hindu group were accused of attacking other students at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University over non-vegetarian food served at one of its hostels at Ram Navmi.

Several students, including women belonging to left-wing groups, were injured in the attack.

Rahul Gandhi, India’s main opposition leader, tweeted on Monday: “Hatred, violence and exclusion weaken our beloved country.

“The road to progress is paved with brotherhood, peace and harmony. Let us stand together to ensure a just, inclusive India. ”

Another opposition MP, Manoj Kumar Jha, said Sunday’s events “should be the last warning signal to all that we are in the immediate vicinity of a possible ‘civil war’ with genocidal tenor”.

New Delhi-based activist Nadeem Khan, founder of the United Against Hate group, told Al Jazeera that the hate speech against Muslims and the attacks on mosques in various parts of the country under Ram Navmi “clearly show that it was a well-planned and organized activity to instigate municipal violence in the country ”.

“Failure to stop these attempts could lead to civilian violations and systematic attacks on minorities. All peace-loving citizens and human rights defenders must come together to resist the situation and keep the peace in order,” he said.

Kashif Kakvi contributed to this report from Madhya Pradesh, India.

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