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Hindu fundamental groups using Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanthi to target minorities: Report

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Hyderabad: Hindu fundamental organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, along with their affiliates, are using the Sri Ram Navami Shobha Yatra and Hanuman Jayanthi procession on big scale to target minorities said a report by the Citizens and Lawyers Initiative. Titled ‘Routes of Wrath – Weaponizing Religious Processions’, it was released with a foreword from Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, former Judge, Supreme Court of India reveals.

The book in depth explains about the communal violence and arson incidents reported in 12 states in India during the Sri Rama Navami Shobha Yatra processions. It is edited by senior advocate Chander Uday Singh.

What the report says

Ram Navami processions in particular, have been taken over by militant Hindutva organisations over the years, as the figure of Ram is central to the political imagination of the Sangh, said the report. A Shobha yatra, which translates to a “shining” or “glorious” procession, was different from traditional rath-yatras, which are organised by temples and are generally limited to nearby areas.

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The Ram Navami Shobha yatras are grand processions of pomp and ceremony attempting to cover entire cities, involving cavalcades of vehicles, each carrying dozens of men, shouting slogans and frequently wielding arms, stated the report.

In April 2022, India witnessed communal violence breaking out in as many as nine states, along with incidents of provocation and low-grade violence in three others. “In all of them, the catalyst for the violence was the same:  religious processions celebrating the Hindu festivals of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, followed by targeted attacks on Muslim-owned properties, businesses and places of worship,” the report said.

The violence witnessed in 2022 and 2023 wasn’t the first time India has seen mob violence under the garb of religious festivities. However, the report noted that it took place on a much larger, seemingly coordinated scale than previous years. It elaborated that, “a breakdown of the rule of law was observed and documented in most of these towns and villages. The immediate violence associated with Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti processions saw more than a hundred homes and shops destroyed or burned down, vehicles set ablaze in every city, and multiple places of worship damaged or vandalized.”

The report speaks about the government action following the violence in forms bulldozing of houses of minoriy communities. “The riots was followed in quick order by State action in some of these cities and towns, which saw further destruction in the form of illegal demolitions of houses and shops, to punish those that the state branded as ‘rioters’ or ‘anti- social’ elements.  The state-sponsored violence has also caused a crisis of displacement of Muslim families in riot-hit areas, either rendered homeless by the demolitions or having been forced to flee from their homes in fear of further state harassment.

Dating back to the pre-2000 era, when communal violence gained grounds, the report discusses how religious processions are precursors to communal violence. “In the 1970s and 1980s there were several communal riots that were triggered by processions that doubled up as a show of majoritarian strength. In the 1980s in particular, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) branded these as ‘yatras’. VHP reacted to the 1981 Meenakshipuram conversions of 150 Dalit families to Islam by taking out ‘ekatmata yajna yatras’,” the report poined out.

“It is important to note not only the nature of the (Ram Navami) processions and their strategies of inciting violence, but also the fact that the dates chosen for said instigation in 2022 were Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, both of which fell within the month of Ramzan. This was used by right- wing institutions of the state and the media in states like Gujarat to further conspiracy theories projecting Muslims uniformly as the assailants – whereas they have suffered the most losses,” it further highlighted.

These affected States are Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Goa and West Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. The report by the collective also points out that communal violence are pre-planned in a majority of cases in the country. Wherever it was reported, processions took to a new route with lone intentions to create trouble.

In 2022, during Hanuman Jayanthi processions, violence were reported in Jahangirpuri locality of Delhi. The report quoting various sources pointed out, “A huge crowd had gathered with a majority of the participants armed with swords, knives, baseball bats and hockey sticks. A few of them were also brandishing kattas (country-made pistols). The first two rallies passed peacefully after they weren’t allowed to pass through the mosque on Kushal Road The third and final rally didn’t follow the prescribed route and reached Kushal Road crossing through B and C blocks.At around 5 pm, the procession had reached the mosque in Block C, Jahangirpuri, where the provocative nature of the procession caused violence to break out.”

In another instance in Himmatnagar, the biggest taluka of Sabarkantha district in North-Gujarat, a procession of 500-600 people organized by Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP) entered Ashraf Nagar in Chhapariya area in a Muslim-dominated area between two Hindu localities – Shakti Nagar and Mahavir Nagar. The procession involved loud provocative songs, sword wielding and aggressive behaviour while marching with saffron flags they stopped in front of a mosque, the report said.

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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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