Violence breaks out on day of Hindu festival processions in India, leaving dozens injured

Violence in Indian cities is repeat of last year’s clashes during the Hindu festival of Ram Navami

Shweta Sharma
Friday 31 March 2023 13:09 BST
<p> Hindu devotees participate in a religious procession to celebrate the Ram Navami festival in Kolkata</p>

Hindu devotees participate in a religious procession to celebrate the Ram Navami festival in Kolkata

Violence between Hindus and Muslims broke out in several cities across India during processions by members of Hindu right-wing groups to mark the festival of Ram Navami, leaving several injured.

Largescale clashes broke out in the Indian states of West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Gujarat while incidents of violence were also reported from the capital Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.

The processions by Hindu groups were taken out in some of the sensitive areas of cities and in Muslim-majority parts as Muslims observed Ramadan.

The violence was a repeat of similar clashes last year during Ram Navami in April and followed by riots during Hanuman Jayanti processions in the same month. The incidents were followed by the demolition of shops and buildings of those identified as accused persons, the majority of whom were Muslims.

Fresh violence erupted on Friday in West Bengal’s western Howrah city which saw rioting and arson a day earlier.

Dozens of vehicles were set on fire, shops were ransacked and two groups pelted stones at each other after stones were allegedly pelted at a Ram Navami procession.

The procession was passing through the Kazipara area of the city when stones were pelted from the roofs of houses, NDTV reported.

Around 36 people have been arrested and stones were pelted from both sides Shibpur, a senior police official told Indian Express.

“It is not yet clear as to what triggered today’s violence. It seems to be a planned action by some miscreants. Last year too, this area had witnessed tension post Ram Navami celebrations, but not to the extent that is being seen this year,” a police officer on duty in the area said.

Hindu devotees participate in a religious procession to celebrate the Ram Navami festival in Kolkata

Chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee blamed the right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) for attempts of stoking communal violence in the state for political gains.

“Even today, they caused communal violence in Howrah. I have repeatedly said that I will not block any Ram Navami procession. I had given instructions to my party workers as well as the police,” she said.

“While one community is celebrating Annapurna Puja, the other is observing fast during Ramzan. We have over 33 per cent Muslim population in the state, they fast and pray during this significant period.”

In Maharashtra, 20 people were arrested and a case was registered against more than 300 unidentified people in connection to clashes in Mumbai’s Malvani area on Thursday.

Mumbai police baton-charged at violent protesters on Thursday night in Malwani to disperse the communally-charged crowd

The situation was tense for a while but it is under control now, police said.

"One person suffered minor injuries in the incident. Legal action is being taken," he added.

Violence was also reported in parts of Aurangabad, Malad and Jalgaon where people pelted stones and set vehicles on fire.

A 51-year-old man, identified as Shaikh Muniruddin, died after suffering injuries during clashes in Aurangabad’s Kiradpura area, reported India Today. A scuffle broke out between two groups in front of a temple.

At least 12 people, including 10 policemen, were injured in the clashes.

A video from Wadi town of Nagpur district showed a man waving a saffron flag inside the premises of Dargah Haji Abdulreham Malang Shah as several police personnel stood beside the man and in the compound. The crowd chanted “Jai Sri Ram” (Glory to Lord Rama).

Members of the Hindu group taking part in processions allegedly pelted stones at mosques and homes of Muslims in Gujarat’s Vadodara city, reported India Today.

Police said all processions in the city were given permission and denied calling it religious riots.

Videos on social media showed a crowd carrying saffron flags and blaring loud music in front of a mosque as the two pelted stones at each other.

Police said at least 22 people have been detained and they were contemplating a “bulldozer action” against the culprits.

A complaint has been registered against 300-500 unidentified people in connection to the clashes and police were identifying alleged stone-pelters through CCTV footage, said additional commissioner of police (Vadodara) Manoj Ninama.

At least 1,000 people from the hardline Hindu groups Bajrangdal and Akhil Bharat Hindu Yuva Morcha took out a procession, waving saffron flags and chanting slogans despite Delhi police denying permission in capital’s Jahangirpuri area.

The area was at the centre of largescale communal violence last year in April when two groups clashed and in the aftermath of it, properties were bulldozed in the Muslim-majority area.

The police said no one has been arrested and no case has been registered as there was no violence.

In Uttar Pradesh, clashes broke out near Shahi Masjid in Lucknow as Hindu group took out rallies.

A video going viral on social media showed a group of men waving saffron flags from the roof of shops near the Jama Masjid in Mathura city.

The police said they are conducting an investigation to identify the men while the situation remained calm.

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