Violence In Ram Navami: Dividing India In The Name Of Ram!

Citizens And Lawyers Initiatives produced a report after analysing the already available data. Called Routes of Wrath, Weaponising Religious Processions, it gives a glimpse of the deep-rooted conspiracy and well-planned strategy to poison the majority population of this secular country

Delhi Police heaved a sigh of relief as the Hanuman Jayanti passed off peacefully. Though a huge procession of about 1,000 people went to Muslim-dominated Jahangirpuri, no untoward incident took place, much to the satisfaction of the police bigwigs. 

One can understand why the top officers of Delhi Police were at their tenterhooks if one recalls the unfortunate incidents taking place on Hanuman Jayanti last year. 

A huge mob armed with swords, sticks, and long and dangerously looking trishuls went deep inside Jahangirpuri and raised provocative anti-Muslim slogans in front of a mosque. It happened twice. The crowd tried to storm the mosque and plant a saffron flag on top of the mosque. They were stopped, stones rained from the rooftop of the nearby buildings and skirmishes broke out. 

In an area located about 1,300 kilometres away from Delhi, on the bank of the holy Ganges, another story was waiting to happen. A huge crowd of people with swords, lathis and trishuls in their hands took out a procession on Ram Navami in Shibpur of Howrah district, West Bengal. They did not have the required permission, but they went inside a Muslim-dominated area and ransacked a few shops. The communal skirmishes took place, government property was damaged, vehicles burnt, shops looted, and people attacked. 

The neighbouring Bihar has a similar story. Similar crowds, similar weapons, similar provocative slogans, similar attacks and incidents of vandalism. 

Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state as it was planned long back. He cancelled a rally in one place but addressed another at another place. He roared and warned that if his party was elected in the next election, he will hang the rioters upside down and correct them. 

West Bengal police arrested a young man for brandishing a gun in the Shibpur procession on Ram Navami from Bihar. He was allegedly found to be a member of the local unit of the BJP. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked Amit Shah to fulfill his promise and rein in the alleged party member. The Home Minister is yet to reply. 

Neither these incidents were isolated nor the attempt to score the brownie points are new.

Similar incidents occurred last year as well on Ram Navami on April 10 and Hanuman Jayanti on April 16. 

Bihar’s neighbouring state of Jharkhand witnessed communal disturbances in Lohardaga, Koderma and Bokaro. Communal peace and harmony were shattered in Khambhat and Himmatnagar in Gujarat, Khargone and Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh, JNU and Jahangirpuri in Delhi, Karauli in Rajasthan, Malad and Amaravati in Maharashtra, Mormugao in Goa, Howrah and Bankura in West Bengal. 

These incidents are new, but they appear to be on a common template. Mere coincidences or a deep-rooted pre-planned conspiracy to divide the land of Ram in his name and on his birthday?

violence in ram navami religious procession hindu

Weaponising Religious Processions

Citizens And Lawyers Initiatives produced a report after analysing the already available data. Called Routes of Wrath, Weaponising Religious Processions, it gives a glimpse of the deep-rooted conspiracy and well-planned strategy to poison the majority population of this secular country. 

The report says that these incidents of communal violence have a common template and modus-operandi. Religious processions ostensibly celebrating Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, attacks on property and businesses owned by Muslims, mosques and other places of religious importance. 

“All such processions comprised of larger-than-usual gatherings of saffron-clad men drawing swords, waving trishuls and even (in some cases) firearms, taking deliberately mapped paths that crossed major mosques and Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods, and raising provocative slogans about the coming of a Hindu Rashtra, the conditions under which Muslims would be allowed to live in this nation, and even justifying violence against Muslims. Many of these processions were accompanied by large flatbed trucks with concert-sized, high-decibel amplifiers and mega-speakers, on which DJs blasted hate-filled anti-Muslim music,” read the report.

Routes of Wrath further points out that “these processions played offensive music or chanted communally charged slogans that call for violence against non-Hindus, especially Muslims, in the vicinity of mosques or within Muslim localities, to provoke the Muslims.”

The report also points out how the provocative, incendiary and Islamophobic ‘Hindutva pop’ music has become a staple of Hindu religious processions in recent years. 

The state of West Bengal with a 30% Muslim population is a curious case. There are about 100 assembly seats with a sizeable Muslim population, some seats, particularly in the northern part bordering Bangladesh, have the majority of Muslim voters.

But this is also the state that has gone through the Renaissance and social reforms, the land of Baul Songs and Nazrul Geeti, the land of Shyama Sangeet and Rabindra Sangeet. This is the place where no communal incident occurred even during the Advani Rath Yatra and even after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It has a culture that identifies itself as Bengali and not as a Hindu or a Muslim. 

It can be juxtaposed with another interesting fact.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP, claimed last year that its branches in the state had increased by 25% in one year. RSS sources confirmed to journalists that a large number of branches were opened in East and West Midnapore, the northern part of Hooghly and rural areas of Howrah.

But it is the tip of the iceberg. RSS has made it clear that it has a plan of adding 700 more shakhas to the existing 1,900 in the state. Mohan Bhagwat, Sar Sanghchalak, as he is called, declared that the outfit intends to open shakhas at the mandal (block) level in villages and ward level in urban areas. 

It is the same state where Hindu Mahasabha joined hands with Muslim League to share power. Syama Prasad Mukherjee joined the Fazlul Haq ministry in Bengal, in 1941, as its finance minister. 

In the last West Bengal Assembly Election an Islamic clergy floated a party and contested a large number of seats despite limited resources and manpower. He was accused of splitting Muslim votes to help the BJP, the party that registered a phenomenal rise in the number of seats and the percentage of votes it got. 

Another interesting point is the saffron party’s strategy to establish Lord Ram as a nationwide Hindu pantheon. The fact remains that he is not widely worshipped across the country, you will not find his temples in large numbers in all the states. West Bengal and Bihar are the states that worship goddesses Kali and Durga. There are no Ram temples in large numbers in southern states, forget the northeast. 

People in West Bengal have not seen Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti processions in the past, these are recent developments. 

The strategy is clear, the template is common, and the goal is apparent. 

Will the Ganges keep on flowing silently?

Pramode Mallik

is former BBC Producer and a commentator on international affairs.

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