This year's celebration of the Ram Navami festival was marred by violence and death across multiple states. Ram Navabi is an important Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Ram, the seventh avatar of Vishnu.
In Khambhat, Gujarat, one person was killed while another was injured during a festival-related attack. Anand Ajit Rajyan, superintendent of Khambhat police, said a "body of an unidentified man, who appears to be around 65 years old, was recovered from the spot in Khambhat."
Rajyan explained that two groups were throwing stones at each other during the Ram Navami festival. After the stone-throwing, "a clash broke out between them during a Ram Navami procession," he added.
The violence erupted almost simultaneously in different states as India celebrates one of its most significant festivals on April 10.
In Himmatnagar, still in Gujarat, 15 individuals were arrested for festival-related violence.
In Jharkhand, 12 people were injured while one person was killed during a stone-throwing and arson attacks. Three people are in critical condition after getting hit by stones. The city is under strict police control after the incident.
In Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, 77 individuals were arrested for the stone-throwing and arson attacks. Kapil Mishra, a local leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the attacks that disrupted the festival were pre-planned.
Six police officers were injured while houses and buildings were damaged during the attacks.
Khargone Tilak Singh, the deputy inspector general, said they are imposing lockdowns in certain areas. They also demolished establishments near the areas where the violent attacks allegedly started.
"Three establishments were demolished in the area. We are moving forward to other areas to carry out similar drives as per our policy of zero tolerance of violence," Singh said.
Start of the violence
The violence in different states has one familiar detail; the alleged assailants were from local Muslim communities. In one instance, Muslims allegedly complained about the loud music from the Ram Navami processions.
In an interview with the Atheist Republic News Team, a communication officer for a local humanitarian organization said Muslims may have started throwing the first stone.
"The generally accepted narrative is that Muslims were provoked to the point that they responded violently," the source said.
The festival procession also Muslim-dominated communities, playing extremely provocative anti-Muslim songs. According to the source, one of the songs played says, "the one who does not say Jai Shri ram should be sent to the graveyard."
Multiple houses and other Muslim-owned properties were destroyed, including mosques that were vandalized and invaded by ring-wing Hindus.
The Indian Express interviewed one of the residents in an area in Gujarat where the violence alleged originated. According to the resident, "attendees in the procession were carrying swords and sticks with them." "Who gave them the permission for that," he asked.
The role of the Bharatiya Janata Party
When asked about the government's handling of the violence, AR News Team's source explained that the BJP's leadership supported the series of violent incidents.
"All the states and cities where the violence happened are controlled or run by the BJP," the source said. "If the BJP does not run a city, they lead the festival procession and cause violence," he added.
The source also said that the systemic violence specifically targeted Muslim communities. "Muslims are afraid to go to the police to file an FIR because they will be interrogated, beaten, and thrown to jail," he said. "Even a retired ex-police Muslim's house was burned for filing a complaint," he added.
He also said that there is multiple video evidence of the police protecting Hindutva attackers while beating and arresting Muslim youth.
The source said there were instances of peaceful collaboration between Muslim communities and Hindu individuals. "There were Muslims giving out drinking water; at the same time, there were Hindus who protected mosques from being vandalized."
After the festival's wake, the violence and destruction drowned out all these goodwills.