Dozens arrested following communal violence in Indian state
Tensions in central Indian Madhya Pradesh village boil over after right-wing Hindu groups desecrate a mosque.
New Delhi and Bhopal, India – The situation remains tense in several parts of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh days after communal violence broke in parts of the state governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Authorities have imposed restrictions in parts of Mandsaur and Indore districts and have arrested dozens of people in connection with the violence.
The tensions were reportedly sparked during rallies organised by right-wing Hindu groups to raise funds for the construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Clashes erupted in a Muslim-dominated village in Indore district on Tuesday when Hindu groups’ members participating in a rally stopped in front of a mosque and chanted slogans while Muslims were praying inside, leading to violent incidents.
A video that has gone viral on social media shows a group of men – holding saffron flags and chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) slogans – climbed atop the mosque and tried to damage a minaret in the presence of police.
“The incident was shameful and a team has been formed to identify the attackers,” Inspector General of Police Yogesh Deshmukh told Al Jazeera.
“In comparison to the mob, the police force was fewer in numbers and failed to control the situation,” he said.
Deshmukh said, as far as the police’s involvement in the incident is concerned, “we are probing it and if we found any substantial proof or video, we will take strict action”.
He said 29 people had been arrested so far in connection with the violence.
The incident came just three days after similar clashes erupted elsewhere in the state in Muslim-dominated Begum Bagh neighbourhood of Ujjain when a rally by the BJP’s youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), in the area led to stone-pelting.
The first incident was reported in Ujjain district of Madhya Pradesh on December 25 where BJYM members organised a motorcycle rally to gather funds for the proposed Ayodhya Ram Temple.
A resident of Begum Bagh alleged that the BJYM workers were sloganeering when they abused some locals while passing through a neighbourhood multiple times in the day.
“They were provoking the locals by abusing them. Dozens of bikers crossed the neighbourhood multiple times a day and every time they hurled abusive comments on the locals and commuters,” said Khaliqur Rehman, a Muslim leader in Ujjain.
“The constant provocation led to the agitation and stones were pelted from both sides and it damaged vehicles of many residents, their houses, as well as a clinic.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, nearly 100km (62 miles) away from Chandanpur, in Dorana village of Mandsaur district, a mob reportedly tried to vandalise the minaret of a mosque.
The police of the respective districts have registered reports against 100 people and nearly 50 people have been arrested overall.
Several right-wing organisations have started a fundraising campaign for the construction of Ram Temple at the site of the 16th-century Babri mosque that was demolished in 1992.
The site of the mosque was given to a government-run trust for the building of a Hindu temple by India’s Supreme Court, while Muslims were allotted 5 acres (2 hectares) of land at an alternative site to construct a mosque there.
Asaduddin Owaisi, the chief of the opposition All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party, on Wednesday blamed the government for inciting its supporters.
“What steps have been taken by the government to de-radicalise these men? By enacting new laws relating to conversions and marriages, the [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi government is radicalising the people of the majority community.”
Rajneesh Agrawal of the governing BJP in Madhya Pradesh, however, said action will be taken against anyone who has committed a crime, irrespective of their religion.
“Our government works as per the rule of law and those who were involved in the violence and broke the law, action will be taken against those under the law,” Agrawal said.
“We will not allow anyone to break law and order, nobody will be allowed to stir communal tensions in Madhya Pradesh and nobody should play politics over it,” he added.
‘Culture of impunity’
Members of the right-wing Hindu organisations have vandalised other religious places of minorities in India this year.
In February, when riots broke in the parts of the Indian capital city, New Delhi, several mosques were vandalised by Hindutva vigilantes.
“A culture of impunity has now taken route in India,” said Professor Apoorvanand of Delhi University, adding that “we will see increase in such incidents in all BJP ruled states”.
“Mobs are being given open licence … they know that nothing will happen to them,” he said.
“And [two] the administration is brazenly taking the side of these mobs.”