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Once a Festival of Joy, Holi has Lately Turned Dangerous for Muslims Across India

Once a Festival of Joy, Holi has Lately Turned Dangerous for Muslims Across India

  • Here are a few incidents of harassment and violence during this year’s celebrations garnered from news reports and social media.

Holi, the festival of colors, bursts onto the scene like an explosion of joy, painting everything in vibrant hues. As a kid, I eagerly awaited its arrival each year, anticipating the revelry with my friends like nothing else. After soaking in the festivities for half the day, I would don a white kurta and accompany my father to his friends’ house, where we would indulge in a spread of delectable dishes. Aware of my father’s devout nature, his friends refrained from smearing him with Gulal or Abeer, reserving those playful gestures for the younger folks who would touch his feet and leave traces of color behind.

As the evening descended, the gathering would migrate to Bharat Chacha’s house, which felt like a second home to me. I would return late into the night, the ritual that continued until my senior year of high school.

Upon leaving my hometown for the bustling metropolis of Delhi, I found the festive spirit sorely lacking. It seemed the big city dwellers lacked the same warmth found in villages and small towns. Gone were the lavish feasts; instead, my college peers settled for modest celebrations, smudging each other’s faces with Gulal on the last day of classes. However, I still had Ashok Mamu in Delhi, so I would make my way to his house on Holi.

Now, those cherished memories are beginning to fade, with even childhood friends scarcely recalling our Holi days. Calls go unanswered, and excuses of being asleep after a drink are offered, only to segue into discussions of politics the next day.

Sadly, it seems our country’s leaders have even politicized our festivals. What should be a day of harmony, where enemies become friends and grudges are set aside, has now become tainted by animosity.

This year’s Holi, too, felt marred by animosity across India. In some places, women faced deliberate harassment, while elsewhere, violence erupted. It is a situation so dire that mosques now require security cover, a sight unseen a decade ago.

Here, I have attempted to document some of the incidents occurring in the name of Holi across the country. These are merely the cases that have gained traction on social media or been reported by various websites.

Ahmedabad (Gujarat): An auto-rickshaw driver was brutally assaulted, beaten, and forcefully colored. A Hindu group set his autorickshaw on fire and shouted Islamophobic slurs, calling him ‘Katua’ and ‘Mulla’.

Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh): Four mosques were covered with a tarpaulin sheet as a precautionary measure ahead of Holi celebrations.

Amroha (Uttar Pradesh): A violent clash erupted during Holi celebrations in Tigri village, resulting in four injuries. Allegedly, a group of troublemakers forcibly entered a Muslim neighborhood, disrupting the atmosphere with provocative slogans. 

Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh): The police administration asked to cover all the mosques along the proposed route of the Ram Baraat procession for Holi with tarpaulin sheets.

Beed (Maharashtra): Some ‘unidentified miscreants’ wrote ‘Jai Shree Ram’ with Holi colors on the wall of Markaz Masjid in Majalgaon.

Bijnor (Uttar Pradesh): A Hindu mob forcefully applied color to a Muslim family while chanting “Jai Shri Ram”. In another incident, they forcibly applied colors to two burqa-clad Muslim women returning from the hospital.

Bijnor (Uttar Pradesh): Hindu men threw colors at a Muslim man heading to a relative’s funeral. Meanwhile, in Seohara, the administration covered “Thane wali Masjid” with a tarpaulin, yet it was torn and colors were thrown inside.

Devgarh (Rajasthan): The Holika Dahan fire near a Muslim home ended in tragedy. Despite objections, the police insisted the family remain indoors, and their worst fears were realized when their house caught fire during the ceremony. While local authorities responded promptly, the family incurred significant losses.

Etah (Uttar Pradesh): “Jai Shri Ram” inscribed on a mosque in Jalesar.

Giridih (Jharkhand): During Holi, antisocial elements attempted to disrupt communal harmony in various areas of the district. Consequently, clashes occurred between opposing groups, resulting in numerous injuries.

Gurugram (Haryana): In Haryana’s Gurugram, Hindu extremists fired shots outside a mosque on the eve of Holi.

Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh): There is communal tension in the Hanumantal area. A heavy police force has been deployed. The controversy is about the color of Holi.

Jalna (Maharashtra): Miscreants attempted to disrupt the atmosphere by throwing colors at two mosques.

Kaushambi (Uttar Pradesh): During Holi, a DJ was being played outside a mosque during late evening namaz, leading to a dispute between two groups regarding its closure. This disagreement escalated into a fierce fight between members of both groups, resulting in tension within the village. The incident occurred in Chhimirchha village within the Karari police station area.

Hyderabad (Telangana):A communal clash erupted in Chengicherla’s Pittal Basti area in Ghatkesar on Sunday after some individuals burnt Holika near a mosque, raised objectionable slogans, and played loud music during prayers. 

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Meerut (Uttar Pradesh): During Holi celebrations, a Muslim youth was halted and threatened to say ‘Jai Sri Ram’.

Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh): In Sujdu village, a laborer named Faizal was transporting construction material in his e-rickshaw. Along the way, hooligans celebrating Holi attacked him with wooden sticks and vandalized his rickshaw.

Sambhal (Uttar Pradesh): At least seven mosques were covered with a tarpaulin sheet as a precautionary measure ahead of Holi celebrations.

Shahjahanpur (Uttar Pradesh): The police administration covered all mosques along the route of the Laat Saheb ki Baraat procession for Holi with plastic sheets.

Shahjahanpur (Uttar Pradesh): In the Haddaf area of the city, some Hindutva extremists painted religious slogans on a mosque using Holi colors, leading to escalating tension in the area. 

Thane (Maharashtra): A Muslim autorickshaw driver reported that a group of people celebrating the Hindu festival Holi stopped his auto, broke his windshield, forcibly applied colors on him, and doused him with water despite his pleas that he was fasting.  

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. The true extent of the horror is even more chilling. It is so terrifying that in certain villages, residents flee their homes and seek refuge with relatives before any festival rolls around. They know all too well that when festivities kick off in the village, a few troublemakers may incite a mob, hurling accusations and even stones at their homes. It’s a situation where tempers flare and reason flies out the window.

I firmly believe that festivals should be celebrated not just with colors, but with open hearts. It’s one thing to coerce people into applying hues, but it’s an entirely different challenge to rid minds of ill will.

As Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, once remarked, “Religious ceremony like the Holi should never be marked by wild revelry but by a disciplined effort to put oneself in communion with God. If we wish to celebrate it in a religious spirit, we must meet and greet each and every Muslim in the true spirit. With our overflowing love, we should reassure the Muslims that the Hindus are their brothers and that there can be no difference between us. We should not terrorize each other. If at all, we should overawe each other with our love and affection.”

Gandhiji shared these thoughts during a prayer meeting in Patna on March 6, 1947, just a day before Holi. Sadly, Bihar Provincial Congress Committee President Professor Abdul Bari, who was present at that very gathering, fell victim to hate on March 28, 1947, when he was fatally shot. I’ve penned a book on Professor Abdul Bari, documenting his life and legacy.

Afroz Alam Sahil is an Indian journalist and author. He can be contacted at @afrozsahil on Twitter.

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