India. Muslims witness wave of attacks and hate speech at Hindu festival | Religious News

Muslims in several Indian states are nervous after crowds marched out, uttering hate speech and attacking their properties during the Hindu festival of Ram Navmi.

Most of the violence was reported on Sunday in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand and West Bengal as the Hindu community celebrated the birthday of the god Ram, one of the main deities 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 motorbikes in Muslim neighborhoods, playing provocative songs mixed with threats of genocide outside. homes and mosques, brandishing hateful slogans.

In one of the videos, allegedly from the eastern state of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar, a man was seen scaling the wall of a mosque and planting a saffron flag at its entrance while d Others cheered, brandishing swords and hockey sticks.

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

In some places, the provocations led members of the minority community to throw stones at the processions, causing tension. In some cases, even police officers were seen joining the crowd.

Some of the worst riots were reported in Khargone district in central Madhya Pradesh state, ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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

At least 10 houses were also burned and more than 24 people, including a policeman, were injured in the violence that erupted in Khargone, forcing the administration to impose a curfew in parts of the district.

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

However, Shaikh said, two days after the incident they were “still struggling to register” a report with the police.

“At least 11 FIRs (first information reports) have been registered against Muslims and more than 84 people have been arrested, but the police are not registering any cases or arresting anyone from the majority community,” he said. he declares.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Monday that “the rioters have been identified”.

“Those who threw stones will be punished, but at the same time they will have to pay for the losses suffered by public and private properties.”

Bulldozed properties

On the same day, the Khargone district administration bulldozed at least 16 houses and 29 shops – belonging to those accused of throwing stones at Ram Navmi processions – in five localities in the district, the The Indian Express newspaper.

Bulldozing the homes and properties of Muslims accused of crimes – even though a trial is still pending in the courts – is a phenomenon that has already been seen in BJP-ruled states. The practice began in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, ruled by a saffron-clad Hindu monk known for his hate speech against Muslims.

Asked about the bulldozing of the properties, Anugraha P told Al Jazeera they were linked to “previous cases of encroachment”. She did not give further details.

Many Muslim leaders and activists have condemned the government for bulldozing the defendants’ properties, questioning the legality of such actions.

“Under what law did the government of Madhya Pradesh demolish the houses of the Muslim community? This clearly shows the biased attitude (of the Chief Minister) towards the Muslim minority,” MP Asaduddin Owaisi told Indian news agency ANI on Tuesday, calling it “state-complicit violence and a grave violation of the Geneva Convention”.

Incidents of violence during Ram Navmi celebrations have also been reported in Sendhwa, a town in neighboring Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh.

Barwani district collector Shivraj Singh told Al Jazeera by phone on Monday that loud music playing near a mosque provoked Muslims who threw stones at a Ram Navmi procession, sparking clashes between the two groups. .

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

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

“We have arrested seven people after the clashes and strict security measures have been put in place to avoid further tensions,” MJ Chaudhari, a police official in Khambat, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying on Monday.

According to media reports, a number of shops and vehicles were set on fire in Khambhat and Himmatnagar, and at least one person died in the violence.

In the southern state of Telangana, hardline BJP lawmaker T Raja Singh attended a Ram Navmi procession, where provocative slogans and songs were played. One of the songs played during the march read: “Those who do not take the name of Ram will have to leave the country.”

“Well designed and organized”

A similar pattern of anti-Muslim hate speech and violence has also been reported in several other Indian states, including Jharkhand and West Bengal in the east – two states ruled by parties opposed to the BJP.

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

“In many places Ram Navmi (processions) have been used to make hate speech against Muslims,” ​​Owaisi tweeted.

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

Several students, including women, belonging to leftist groups were injured in the attack.

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

“The path to progress is paved with the bricks of brotherhood, peace and harmony. Let us stand together to ensure a fair and inclusive India.

Another opposition parliamentarian, Manoj Kumar Jha, said Sunday’s incidents “should be the final warning signal to everyone that we are in the closest neighborhood to a possible ‘civil war’ in genocidal content”.

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

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

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

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