Ram Navami Processions Dissolve Into Violence Against Muslims. What Kind of Ram Rajya are We Establishing?
- When Mahatma Gandhi, who was a devotee of Lord Ram and used to take his name in prayer meetings, he had a different interpretation of Rama. He believed that Rama belonged equally to all.
In 1919, protests against the Rowlatt Act were taking place across India when a huge procession took place in Amritsar to celebrate the Ram Navami festival. The procession was attended by people of all religions, and slogans of ‘Dr. Kitchlew ki Jai’ and ‘Dr. Satyapal ki Jai’ echoed in the air, both being freedom fighters of the Indian independence movement.
Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew’s charisma attracted a majority of Muslim participants to the procession. The next day, Dr. Kitchlew and Dr. Satyapal were arrested and sent to Dharamsala, where they were kept under house arrest, and martial law was imposed on April 11. Despite this, a rally was held on April 13 at Jallianwala Bagh to protest their arrest. British General Dyer arrived with his soldiers and gave the order to fire, resulting in indiscriminate shooting and a horrific massacre that shook India and spurred the fight for independence from British rule.
Religious processions in India have often been associated with communal tensions, and it seems the British colonial regime was well aware of this fact. Since then, Ram Navami processions have been causing a frenzy, particularly with those promoting Hindutva ideology taking out processions in front of mosques, playing drums with religious slogans, and deliberately stopping the processions in front of these mosques. Communal tension resulting from these processions made headlines during the Ram Navami festivals of 1923 and 1924, and even after India gained independence, there have been sporadic incidents of communal violence during these processions.
This year’s Ram Navami processions have spread fear and violence, particularly against the Muslim community. Some of the events reported by media websites include:
— Sasaram: A Ram Navami procession turned violent as soon as it reached a Muslim area, resulting in stone-pelting, house bombings, and some houses being set on fire. Muslims were forced to migrate to safer areas, and the tension continues.
— Nalanda: Violence broke out in Biharsharif over a procession, resulting in the targeting of Muslim houses, vehicles, and mosques. Seven people were shot during the violence, and the famous Madrasa Azizia was set on fire, destroying around 4500 rare books.
— Munger: A bike rally organized by a Hindutva organization entered a Muslim area, waving swords and raising hateful slogans, despite the administration’s orders not to do so.
— Bhagalpur: Two incidents of violent clashes were reported over the installation of saffron flags on electric poles and an alleged attack on Muslims by people returning from a Shobha Yatra.
— Gaya: A clash took place in Dabbu village over the Ram Navami procession, resulting in two policemen being injured.
— Lakhisarai: Bajrang Dal members openly waved swords, played provocative songs, and tried to spread communal tension during the Shobha Yatra.
— Kishanganj: Bajrang Dal took out a bike rally, abusing Muslims and attempting to create communal tension.
— Jahangirpuri: Last year (2022), an incident of violence occurred during the Shobha Yatra on Hanuman Jayanti. Despite this, this year the Delhi Police did not give permission for the procession to take place. However, the procession was taken out, and the organizers insisted on going through the same route where people were victims of violence the previous year. When stopped by the police, tensions escalated, but a natural rain shower helped to calm the situation down.
— Vadodara: During the Shobha Yatra in Vadodara city, a crowd of Hindutvavadis shouted anti-Muslim slogans while pelting stones at a mosque. The first incident took place in the afternoon near the Panjrigar locality of Fatehpura area, while the second incident took place in the evening at nearby Kumbharwada. The procession of the Panjrigar locality was organized by Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Whereas, the second procession was organized by the local residents. Local BJP MLA Manisha Vakil was part of that procession. After the dispute, local people accused the police of arbitrariness, saying that after Iftar, a large number of Muslims were arrested by the police, and many were beaten up.
— Gir Somnath: Communal tension broke out in Una town of the district after hate speeches were allegedly made targeting Muslims during a Hindu convention organized by Vishwa Hindu Parishad on the occasion of Ram Navami. Kajal Hindustani, who identified herself as a political and social activist, made inflammatory speeches, leading to increased tension in the city.
— Sonipat: In Kharkhoda town, about 20 youths entered the Sheikh’s mosque while prayers were going on and raised a saffron flag on the dome of the mosque while chanting Jai Shri Ram and other provocative slogans, leading to tension in the area.
— Gurugram: Far-right Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang members marched with a bulldozer during Shobha Yatra.
— Dhanbad: The police stopped the Ram Navami procession from entering a Muslim area, leading to clashes between the procession participants and the police. Some people tried to spread tension in the surrounding areas. A clash with the police also took place in Bhurkundabari village where people accused a Muslim youth of killing a bull and tied him to a tree. After the arrival of the police, people became violent and damaged the police vehicle. There is now tension between Hindus and Muslims in the area.
— East Singhbhum: In Jugsalai area of Jamshedpur, people protested against the ban on the Ram Navami procession by the police with DJs, trying to provoke tensions. In Haldipokhar area of Potka block, communal tension arose due to the Shobha Yatra of Ram Navami, and there was stone pelting from both sides.
— Ramgarh: Bajrang Dal members took out a Ram Navami procession with weapons and brandished swords despite restrictions from the police.
— Sahebganj: Communal tension arose in this area also due to the Shobha Yatra. Viral videos on social media showed armed goons creating a ruckus in a Muslim colony while the police watched silently.
JAMMU & KASHMIR
— Jammu: Police in the city detained Muslim restaurant owners for cooking and selling meat during Navratri and confiscated utensils and cooked meat. During the Ram Navami rally, Bajrang Dal members raised provocative slogans, such as “We will make India a Hindu nation. India is a Hindu nation.”
— Hassan: In Channarayapatna town of the district, a clash broke out between two groups during the raising of provocative.
— Khandwa: During the Ram Navami procession, Hindutva activists played provocative songs and raised communal slogans outside a mosque (Moti Masjid), leading to communal tension. Both sides pelted stones since then.
— Khargone: Hindutva supporters put a saffron flag in place of the green flag at the shrine of Hazrat Kale Khan and raised slogans of “Hindu Rashtra ki Jai” (Long Live Hindu Nation). However, Muslims welcomed the Ram Navami procession by setting up a stage and showering flowers on them.
— Aurangabad (Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar): A clash between two groups in the Kiradpura area led to news of an attack on a temple going viral, resulting in stone pelting and the torching of several vehicles. 12 people, including 10 policemen, were injured in this attack. However, according to Member of Parliament Imtiaz Jaleel, there was a clash between two groups of alcoholics who threw stones at each other, and no damage was caused to the Ram temple. Imtiaz Jalil released a video from inside the temple confirming that there was no attack on the temple.
— Jalgaon: A song was played loudly during prayers outside a mosque, leading to violence when Muslims expressed objection. Four people were injured in this violence.
— Mumbai: People participating in the Ram Navami rally stopped outside a mosque in Malad’s Malwani area and shouted provocative slogans, leading to tension in the area. The police used lathi charge to control the situation.
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) MP Sanjay Raut told reporters that ‘these are government-sponsored riots. There are BJP governments in Maharashtra and Gujarat, and there were riots (in both states). When Uddhav Thackeray was the chief minister, Ram Navami was celebrated peacefully during his tenure and there were no riots.
— Hyderabad: On the day of Ram Navami, the situation remained tense in the Charminar area. Here, some Hindus were shouting provocative slogans while passing in front of a mosque on a bike, on which objection was raised. On the other hand, the other side says that they were chanting slogans of hailing Ram, during which some people attacked them after coming out of the mosque. As soon as this news spread in the area, the situation became tense. In Hyderabad city, suspended BJP MLA T. Raja Singh stopped his procession outside a mosque and delivered a hate speech. The police registered a case against him for delivering a hate speech.
— Howrah: Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal took out a procession with weapons in Shibpur. Suddenly, this procession turned violent, with stones being pelted from the roofs of houses, followed by the crowd throwing stones from the road. The same mob set fire to nearby vehicles and shops, and the police had to fire tear gas shells to control the situation.
— North Dinajpur: Violence broke out during the procession in Dalkhola of Islampur town, resulting in the death of a young man, while five to six policemen were injured. However, the police say that the young man died of a heart attack during the violence.
— Kolkata: The atmosphere in the famous Park Circus area was vitiated by provocative slogans raised by those involved in a Ram Navami procession.
— North 24 Parganas: A video available on social media showed swords being waved during the Shobha Yatra in Bhatpara area, accompanied by provocative songs and slogans played outside a mosque.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has directly blamed the BJP for these incidents, saying, “They have been calling goons from outside the state for communal riots. No one stopped their processions, but they do not have the right to march with swords and bulldozers. How dare they do this in Howrah?” Mamta also questioned, “Why did they change the route? Why choose an unauthorized route to target and attack one community in particular? BJP has always targeted Howrah, Park Circus, and Islampur.”
— Lucknow: A clash between two groups of students occurred at Bhimrao Ambedkar University, where ABVP (the student wing of BJP) students took out a procession on Ram Navami. The other group opposed this, resulting in a clash. Later, both groups demanded action from the VC. At the same time, in Jankipuram extension of Madianv village of Lucknow, disputes arose over the DJ being played in a procession in front of a mosque, after which communal tension spread in the area.
— Mathura: During the Ram Navami procession, some youths hoisted saffron flags by climbing the wall of Jama Masjid.
— Moradabad: Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal organized a massive Shoba Yatra on Ram Navami where provocative slogans like “Ayodhya Toh Jhanki Hai, Mathura Mandir Baki Hai (Ayodhya is a mere trailer, Mathura Mandir is still left).”
Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, with the support of the Samajwadi Party, has alleged, “With the 2024 general elections drawing near, the BJP is making communal violence its agenda. Burning of Bengal, inciting communal violence in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat is just a trailer.”
A case of communal tension came to the fore in India’s neighboring country, Nepal, as well. In Janakpur, saffron bearers involved in the Ram Navami Shobha Yatra shouting aggressive slogans created a lot of ruckus near a mosque, after which the atmosphere became very tense.
According to the police, Muslims here informed the police, and as soon as the police arrived, the saffron-clad men ran away. But after some time, another group of Bajrang Dal arrived again. The police chased them away, but in the next lane, saffron-clad men and some Muslims of the area clashed with each other. Some people were also injured.
The local people of Janakpur say that this is the first time such an incident has happened here. Most of the faces were unknown. The numbers of some vehicles belonged to UP-Bihar. This work has been done by the Young Hindu Emperor of Nepal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Here, the RSS works under the name ‘Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.’ A total of 12 of its organizations work here. Nepal has become a secular nation from a Hindu nation in 2006, but these people want to make Nepal a Hindu nation again.
What kind of Ram Rajya do these people want?
On the auspicious occasion of Ram Navami, the people talked openly about the Hindu nation and bringing Ram Rajya in the country. It is ironic that those who talk about the Hindu nation and claim to want to establish Ramrajya in India are the same people who killed Gandhi. They seem to have misunderstood Gandhi’s vision of Ramrajya.
When Mahatma Gandhi, who was a devotee of Lord Ram and used to take his name in prayer meetings, he had a different interpretation of Rama. In a speech given on 4th April, 1946 in New Delhi, Gandhi said that the Rama he worshipped was not the historical Rama, but the eternal, unborn, and one without a second. He believed that Rama belonged equally to all, and that there was no reason for anyone to object to taking His name. Gandhi also respected other religions and encouraged people to worship God in their own way. His speech was published in Hindustan Times on April 5, 1946.
Afroz Alam Sahil is an Indian journalist currently based in Istanbul.
The author is wilfully ignoring the countless instances of Muslims throwing rocks on these processions, attacking such groups with knives which end in violence. Last year the same thing happened and ended with a Hindu child being shot in the head. Do only Muslims get the right to live and practice their faith?