A Catalyst For Anti-Muslim Violence In India


Local resident Amjad Khan, who owns a bakery in Khargone, told Religion Unplugged that he was part of a peace committee aiming to maintain tranquility when Ram Navami processions pass through Muslim-majority areas.

The violence was triggered by a minor altercation between a Hindu and a Muslim boy, Khan said. As soon as the violence broke out, he, along with other members of the peace committee, tried to quell the situation. However, he was later falsely accused of inciting violence, and one of his bakeries was demolished by local authorities.

A recent report titled “Routes of Wrath,” authored by a group of lawyers and citizens (led by lawyer Chander Uday Singh and prefaced by retired Supreme Court Justice Rohinton Nariman), uncovered a recurring pattern of calculated attacks aiming to terrorize and enrage Muslims, causing significant damage to their homes and shrines and driving a bitter communal divide.

A Template for Hate and Violence

The report identified a pattern in which the riots occur during both festivals: Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti. Typically, it happens when a large gathering of men, mostly affiliated with Hindu nationalist organizations like Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Yuva Vahini, and others, pass through Muslim-majority areas, chanting Islamophobic slogans and playing songs that deride the Muslim religion, particularly near mosques.

According to Shaheen Abdulla, a reporter for Indian news site Maktoob Media, told Religion Unplugged that when Muslims gather for a call to prayer and the Hindu processions pauses for the duration, some individuals in the mob deliberately heckle some Muslims.

Occasionally, people in the mob also use the weapons they carry, he added. Abdulla also observed that the situation is exacerbated by the state’s effective impunity for the mob.

In a recent rioting incident in Gujarat state, there was an outbreak of violence against Muslims following a deviation in the route of the Ram Navami procession. The procession unexpectedly passed through a Muslim neighbourhood where provocative slogans were directed at the Muslim community and loud songs were played.  

In the police complaint that ensued after the violence, it named 45 Muslims as the accused, while others were identified as a “mob.” No Hindus were named in the complaints.

A similar pattern emerged in Khargone last year, where post-violence arrests totaled 104 individuals, all of whom were Muslims.

The police storm every Muslim home, Abdulla said. Typically, male officers carry out these raids, often assaulting the women who attempt to protect their children from detention. The culprits, Abdulla added, don’t just vanish. They openly assert their intention to continue assaulting Muslims with impunity in the public sphere.

Sharjeel Usmani, an activist, told Religion Unplugged that although violence during Ram Navami is not a new occurrence, the scale and intensity of such incidents have risen exponentially over the past two years.

He stressed that there are close to 200 million Muslims living in India, so the damage will be extensive. Usmani added that Muslims in India face a double-edged assault.

Firstly, the mob attacks us, he explained. Then, police officials follow suit, carrying out similar acts under an official guise, he continued. This has been observed in Madhya Pradesh state’s Khargone district, Bihar Sharif in Bihar state, and now also in Jharkhand state’s Jamshedpur city.

This is evident in the destruction of Muslim homes following incidents of violence. The report “Routes of Wrath” specifically highlighted the state’s swift and often illegal intervention in numerous cities and towns, resulting in further destruction through the demolition of homes and businesses deemed to belong to “rioters” or “anti-social” elements.

Consequently, Muslim families in riot-hit areas face a displacement crisis due to “state-sponsored” violence, according to the report. Many are rendered homeless after their homes are demolished, while others are compelled to flee their residences for fear of further official harassment, it said.

Explaining the police’s alleged bias behavior toward Muslims, Usmani narrated an incident in Khargone last year when no less than 18 minors were arrested. A 13-year-old boy even attempted suicide in jail because an officer was forcing him to chant verses from the Hindu scripture Geeta that he couldn’t remember. Upon his release, a 7-inch mark was evident on his neck.

Usmani further suggested that the two festivals are weaponized to incite violence against Muslims because they typically coincide with the holy month of Ramzan.

Human rights activist Harsh Mander has been quoted in the Indian media as saying, “Ram has been transformed by Hindutva (a Hindu nationalist ideology) from a representation of justice, duty, compassion, and devotion into a vengeful warrior waging war on the artificially created ‘enemy within.’”

Open public displays of violent hostility by furious young men wielding saffron flags and guns against Muslim neighbors and places of worship have drastically altered the essence of a festival otherwise dedicated to commemorating the birth of Ram with fasting and prayers, he was further quoted as saying.

Failure of the Majoritarian ‘Hindu’ Community

For Asif Mujtaba, a human rights activist, it is high time that the Hindu majority in India take a stand against “extremist radicalization” within their community.

He contends that the way the word “Ram” is currently used by the Hindu community has become a means of “terrorizing in the name of Hindutva.”

Mujtaba told Religion Unplugged that while the weaponization of Hindu festivals might be a recent phenomenon, the manipulation of Ram Navami for communal and political gains has always been present.

Celebrating festivals by playing songs with Islamophobic lyrics, especially in front of a mosque where prayers are being offered, is not a respectable way to honor any festival, he stressed. This, he added, casts a shadow on the conscience of the Hindu majority community, compelling them to question how they want their festivals to be celebrated.

Addressing the role of escalating radicalization, Usmani asserted it was more of a moral dilemma than a political problem.

A lot of people who may not subscribe to this interpretation of their religion are passively permitting it, Usmani said. There has been no organized resistance from the community itself, he noted.

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here