Irfan Engineer and Neha Dabhade
THE Hindu right wing weaponised Hindu festivals to foment communal rights in 2022, according to the monitoring of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) based on the reports that appeared in three English newspapers of The Hindu, Indian Express and Times of India. In the year 2022, these newspapers reported 40 incidents of communal riots in India. This is 400% increase from 10 in the last year.
While as far as the mob lynching incidence are concerned, there was no increase, as compared to the year 2021, which remained constant at 15 incidences reported in the three newspapers monitored. Out of the 40 incidents of communal riots, 19 took place owing to processions taken out by Hindu right wing organizations, a trend that continued from 2020 and 2021 when similar major communal riot took place in Indore, Mandsaur, Ujjain and Manawar in Dhar. Religious processions were used to masquerade in order to mount communal attacks. The communal riots targeted Muslims predominantly in the respective areas damaging, vandalizing and looting their property. Instead of controlling the riots, the response of the state was to further the objective of the rioters, viz., to inflict maximum damages on the Muslims. This was done by the state by demolishing their prime properties using state owned equipment like the bulldozers, JCBs and other heavy machineries, and falsely branding the Muslims as rioters and stone pelters, which according to fact finding reports of civil society organizations were baseless allegations.
The state allowed demonisation of Muslims and Christians and hate speeches against them, making them vulnerable to hate crimes, mob lynching and targets during communal riots. The narratives and hysteria created around conversions and inter-faith marriages have polarized communities along religious lines. These are the dominant emerging trends of communal violence in 2022 according to annual monitoring of CSSS. While communal riots and mob lynching are forms of physical violence, however, violence is more than physical violence, and includes structural violence and symbolic violence.
According to Galtung, ‘violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations’ (Galtung, 1969). Galtung in his writings made a distinction between direct violence, structural violence and cultural violence. The understanding that emerges from Galtung’s ideas is that structural violence is similar to social injustice and the structures that promote this social injustice. It is an invisible force that is formed by the structures that prevent the satisfaction of basic needs. It usually expresses itself indirectly and has no directly visible cause. It occurs when people are influenced in such a way that they cannot realize their full potential possible.
When applied to the context of communal violence in India, structural violence can be construed as violence perpetuated by structures which prevent full realization of individuals as citizens and individuals. Individuals face discrimination and exclusion on the basis of their religious identity. Laws, policies, political institutions, unjust social conditions are included in structures. What is the significance of structural violence unfolding in India and its implications on society? The way structural violence is unfolding in India and that too at a rapid pace, it marks a transition from a civic nationalism in India to ethnic nationalism. The Constitution of India guarantees equality, liberty and fraternity to all irrespective of caste, sex, class and religion. The idea of citizenship in India is not based on religion but on the values of equality, acceptance and inclusion, which is civic nationalism. However, in the last few years, with the advent of laws, policies and overall changing nature of state institutions, there are steps taken towards establishing ethnic nationalism in India. Ethnic nationalism draws symbols selectively from one particular religion and upholds it to be superior or dominant over others. The Hindu right wing in India has been demanding the establishment of ‘Hindu State’. Hindu state is also the raison d’etre of RSS, the ideological parent of BJP, the ruling party in India. The state has been ushering laws and policies which actively promote discrimination and exclusion of marginalized groups- steps towards Hindu state.
Structural violence in India leading towards ethnic nationalism is also manifesting in the right ward shift and loss of independence of state institutions including the judiciary, the election Commission, state funded educational and research organizations, various commissions to protect the rights of women, minorities etc. The robust and independent working of these institutions ensures democracy and strong civic nationalism. The breakdown of these institutions or ineffectual actions is pushing further towards an ethnic nationalism. Ethnic nationalism is sought to be justified by a warped communal narrative. Different issues and narratives woven by the Hindu right wing have normalized violence and exclusion of the Muslims and Christians. Some of the prominent issues are as follows:
In the year 2022, continuing the trend observed in other states in 2021, four more states, namely-Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana introduced or amended existing anti-conversion laws ironically called, “freedom of religion” acts. The objectives of the anti-conversion laws ushered in by states are twofold: firstly, to stop or create obstacles in the voluntary religious conversions from Hindu religion to other religions and not vice-versa. Secondly, the laws seek to criminalize people who want to convert into other religion from Hindu religion. Additionally, the laws and the propaganda of “large scale” conversions by Hindu right wing is used to justify and legitimize the attacks of state and non-state actors of pastors, prayer meetings, churches and houses of Christians, Muslim men and their families. It is worth noting here that the need for such laws don’t emanate from the grassroots. There is no data cited by the state to support such laws. It has no evidence of forcible conversions. On three separate occasions in 2021 and 2022, questions about the “danger” of religious conversions were posed in the Parliament- regarding forcible conversions for marriage and claims about large scale conversions of adivasis in the form of starred questions, but the government maintained the same stand that it doesn’t collect data on conversions (Arora, 2022)!
These laws essentially made religious conversion illegal and imposed stringent punishment maximum up to 10 years and fines up to INR 3 lakhs in some cases. The laws forbid change in religion through “force or allurement” and state that marriage for the sole purpose of conversion is declared null and void. The definition of the terms “fraud”, allurement” or “force” are so vague and broad as defined under these laws that it poses a threat to bring under its ambit also voluntary conversions and provides a weapon to the state to persecute innocent citizens who are not converting forcefully but out of their own will. The inter-faith couple that wishes to marry has to give the District Magistrate (DM) a prior notice of one or two months depending on the state. Similarly, those seeking to convert have to give prior notice to the DM.
While there is hysteria created by political leaders around ‘large scale’ conversions from the ruling dispensation claiming demographic changes, the census data shows no significant change in demographics. The legislations are used to criminalize Muslims and Christians. It is also used to legitimize the attacks on these communities. For instance, as many as 302 attacks against Christians took place in the first seven months of 2022 according to the United Christian Forum, which has collected data on the basis of distress calls it received on its helpline numbers (Pal, 2022).
In another incident, a group of Christian missionaries was allegedly attacked by more than 30 men armed with sticks two days before Christmas in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district over reports of forced conversions (Indian Express, 2022). In another worrisome incident, between December 9 and December 18, there were a series of attacks in about 18 villages in Narayanpur and 15 villages in Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh displacing about 1,000 Christian Adivasis from their villages. The Christians are forced to take refuge in the open in the harsh winters. The other villagers were mounting pressure on the Christians to give up their faith and convert into Hinduism (Indian Express, 2022).
It is to be noted that the passing of the anti-conversion law in Karnataka was preceded by a Christian delegation opposing such a law meeting with the Karnataka Governor and appealing to him to not give assent to the bill. The delegation stated that the Christian community in Karnataka is against such a law. The delegation questioned the need for such an exercise when sufficient laws and court directives were in place to monitor any violation. Referring to the Fundamental Rights enshrined in Article 25 and Article 26, the delegation said that introducing such laws would infringe on the rights of citizens, especially of the minority community. Right on cue, recently, St Mary’s Church at Mysuru’s Periyapatna was vandalised two days after Christmas. The miscreants also damaged the statue of baby Jesus at the church (M S & Gautam, 2022).
In Uttarakhand in another incident, charges were slapped against Ravi Francis and his family members under the anti-conversion law when the members of the Bajrang Dal surrounded the house of Francis and alleged that forced conversion of Hindus inside the house in Dehradun in November. The Francis family however denied these allegations and explained that they were having a Sunday prayer with their guests from the Christian community and not carrying out conversions (Das, 2022).
Interfaith marriages or propaganda of ‘Love Jihad’
The anti-conversion laws and the fabricated narrative based on allegations and conspiracy theory of Muslim men “luring” Hindu women into marriages to convert them have led to assaults on inter-faith couples by Hindu right wing organizations. Such laws and inaction by the state to protect them have made it very difficult for two adult individuals and citizens to marry a partner of their own choice. It especially undermines agency of women to step out of patriarchal institutions like families and exercise their choice to marry the person they want. Ironically, there is no data to prove the theory of ‘love jihad’ at state level or at centre.
In 2022, the public discourse was replete with the accusations of “love jihad”. The Shraddha Walkar case in Delhi in particular gave it an impetus in 2022. Shraddha Walkar and Aftab Poonawala, both hailing from Vasai, Maharashta were in a live in relationship in Delhi. Poonawala allegedly murdered Walkar and cut her body into pieces. Though the crime is condemnable and the culprit should get the appropriate punishment prescribed by law, the media and police machinery gave a communal spin to the case. Initially the police ignored the case but later it was not looked as a crime devoid of the religious identity of the accused and victim but the incident which was sharply communalized.
Because this case involved an inter-faith couple, the media and the state, used the case to amplify the narrative that Hindu women who marry or choose to live with Muslim men are not safe. The import was that Muslim men are a threat to Hindu women in particular and the society in general. While domestic violence and even murders are not uncommon in our society and not related to the religious identity of the spouses, the Hindu right wing and the state are manipulating these cases to demonize Muslim men and undermine the agency of Hindu women. For instance, according to the National Family health Survey 5, 24.4% of married women have faced physical violence between 2019 and 2021 in Maharashtra alone. But somehow these instances of violence and in extreme cases, murders are not highlighted by the media and political leaders. Does violence occur only in inter-faith marriages and not in marriages where both spouses are from same religions? In fact honor killings are not uncommon where family members of the spouses kill both the spouses. Domestic violence is a reality in Indian society sadly which too is not spoken about.
Not surprisingly, Maharashtra which doesn’t have anti-conversion law or laws barring inter-faith marriages, constituted an ‘Intercaste/ Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee (state level)’ to gather details about couples in interfaith marriages, and maternal families of such women if they were estranged after the Shraddha Walkar case. Later the state government amended its Government Resolution, saying the task of the committee will now be limited to gathering information about interfaith marriages, and not intercaste marriages. The new GR stated that the panel had been renamed ‘Interfaith Marriage-Family Coordination Committee (state level)’ and “it was under the government’s consideration to amend the committee that was set up”. Many dub this move as a first step towards introducing a law restricting inter-faith marriages in the state.
Demolitions as a form of collective punishment
Razing down the properties of Muslims under different pretext has been a pronounced trend in 2022 drawing criticism from various quarters. The objective of the demolitions is that Muslims should not protest and exercise their democratic rights as equal citizen of the country. Demolitions are used to intimidate the Muslim community. Though the state has justified demolitions on different occasions by citing illegality of the properties, gradually a trend is emerging where demolition of houses is couched as a punishment for other alleged crime. Such arbitrarily demolitions which do not follow any proper laid down legal procedures or laws. In fact the Supreme Court in June observed that demolitions have to be in accordance with law and cannot be retaliatory. Yet the demolitions continued with alarming frequency and in almost all the cases without prior notices.
Demolitions in 2022, mostly targeting the Muslims, were undertaken by the state after communal riots which took place on the occasion of Ram Navami in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Jharkhand. Demolitions were also undertaken in Delhi after the riots that took place on Hanuman Jayanti and in Uttar Pradesh after protests against Nupur Sharma and her derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad. Ironically, Narottam Mishra, Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, had stated that houses from where stones were hurled will be razed down and turned into rubble (Hindustan Times, 2022). However, the local administration where the demolitions have taken place has maintained that “illegal” structures were demolished and these demolitions are not connected with the riots or protests.
There are numerous accounts and reports by independent media houses, journalists and civil society organizations which point towards the arbitrary nature of these demolitions, some which continued even after stay orders from Courts. Different reports have pointed out that it’s improbable that stones were pelted from properties which were razed down since they were far away from the sites of communal riots. Also the properties of Muslims were selectively razed down. Though the popular narrative that was promoted by the state was that the house of the “stone-pelters” were demolished to upload law and give a strong message to them, there are testimonies and reports where the owners of the properties were either absent from the properties or too ill to indulge in stone-throwing or even disabled with no limbs! The state has targeted the Muslim community arbitrarily to silence it and muzzle it economically and morally. Heavy costs were recovered by the state from the Muslims under the pretext of recovering of damages caused during protests or riots while the Hindu right wing organizations that organize the processions and indulge in violence are let go scot-free.
Demolitions to Punish Protests
In the state of Uttar Pradesh, in response to the derogatory remarks made by BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, protests took place in different parts of UP. The state government in retaliation demolished properties of Muslims who the government alleged participated in the protests. Properties were especially targeted in Saharanpur and Kanpur, claiming they are “illegal constructions”. The Saharanpur Police razed parts of the gates and outer walls of houses of accused Muzammil and Abdul Waqir. In Kanpur, police demolished a property belonging to one Mohammad Ishtiyaq, who the police said, was linked to Zafar Hayat Hashmi, the main accused in the violent protests that took place in Kanpur on June 3. The UP Police arrested 230 people across the state in connection with the protests. The demolitions come on the heel of UP CM Adityanath’s instruction to the administration to take stern action against “anti-social elements” (The Wire, 2022).
In Prayagraj, the authorities demolished the house of Javed Mohammad, an activist, who they claimed is the “mastermind” behind the protests against the derogatory comments of Nupur Sharma. Javed Mohammad was also arrested by the police. While the authorities claimed that they had served notice for demolition to the family following due procedure, the family members of Javed Mohammad have told that the administration stuck a back dated notice only the previous night before the demolition. Also Javed had no legal stake on the property since the property belonged to Parveen Fatima, Javed’s wife. The property was gifted to her by her father and stood on ancestral property (Rai, 2022).
Demolitions to punish Communal riots
Communal riots took place in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jahangirpuri in Delhi including other places on the occasion of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti. The administration in these places demolished the houses of mostly Muslims claiming them to be “encroachments” or “illegal”. Though the narrative sought to be promoted by ministers like Narottam Mishra in MP was that the houses of stone pelters will be razed down, the local administration cited illegality of the properties and razed them down. Bulldozers and the demolitions have come to symbolize the weapon used by the state to force the Muslims to submit to the hegemony of Hindu right wing organizations which openly insult and provoke the Muslim community by targeting their mosques and raise derogatory slogans against the Muslim women.
In Khambhat, Gujarat, after the Ram Navami procession and ensuing communal riots, the local administration razed down small kiosks of poor Muslims selling operating small businesses on the road. In Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, the administration demolished shops of Muslims running small businesses and also demolished restaurants and bakeries owned by the Muslims. Approximately 45 properties were demolished. In Jahangirpuri, the demolition by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi targeted carts and small shops owned by Muslims. The women who mostly sold fruits, wares and other small products having hand to mouth existence were the most affected. Shockingly, even after the Supreme Court issued a stay order against the demolition, the administration continued with the demolition in violation of the stay order in Jahangirpuri. Civil society organizations and some political leaders protested at the sites of demolitions and also tried to stop the illegal demolitions but to no effect.
In Uttar Pradesh, in March, the police in Saharanpur district took a bulldozer to the house of two brothers, Amir (19) and Asif (22) who were accused of gangraping a minor girl on the pretext of marriage. A case against the accused was lodged based on the complaint of the girl’s mother. The police allegedly threatened the accused to surrender to the police by demolishing some part of their house (Sahu, 2022). It is worth noting that the nowhere else in India; persons accused of rape are subjected to demolitions of their houses. The law on rape in India doesn’t prescribe demolition as the punishment for rape. Further, the gruesome rape that occurred in Hathras in UP wasn’t met with the same action by the state as the accused was not Muslim.
In a case which seems is motivated by feeling of personal revenge and abuse of position, sub-divisional magistrate, Gyanshyam Verma ordered demolition of a furniture shop owned by Zahid Ahmed, claiming it to be an illegal structure. However, the orders of demolition came after Ahmed asked Verma to pay a bill of INR 2.6 lakhs for the furniture that Verma bought from Ahmed’s shop.Verma was enraged with the bill and threatened to teach Ahmed a lesson. Ahmed was given only three day’s notice to vacate his shop. Also, while complaints had been received about several alleged encroachments in the area, Verma chose to demolish only Ahmed’s shop (The Wire, 2022).
In October, the Gujarat government demolished around 45 structures- mostly residential and commercial premises and mazars of Muslim community in Bet Dwarka, an island off Okha coast in Devbhumi Dwarka districtin Gujarat. The administration claimed that these demolished structures were “encroachments” on government land, freeing up to around one lakh square feet land (Indian Express, 2022) .
In Madhya Pradesh, the administration demolished 48 houses in Ramgarh district in May. The administration claimed that these houses were “illegal” and “encroachment” on government land but the demolitions came on the heels of a marriage procession of Dalit where stones were pelted on the procession when loud music was played in the procession while passing a religious place. Notices were served to the properties regarding their illegality merely hours before the demolitions (Times of India, 2022). Similarly, in a shocking incident, the Dindori district administration in Madhya Pradesh demolished the house and three houses belonging to the family of Asif Khan who eloped with Sakshi Sahu. Sahu’s brother filed a case of kidnapping against Khan and three days later razed three shops belonging to Khan’s family comprising an online service centre, a chicken shop and a tea stall, claiming they were constructed illegally. In the meanwhile, Sakshi Sahu went on record to say that she married Asif Khan out of her own volition (Ganguly, 2022).
Hijab controversy and denying freedom of religion and belief
The restrictions on the use of the hijab in public spaces has fanned public debates in the country and to an extent polarized communities along religious lines. The restriction on the hijab was also used as a tool to target and deny freedom of religion to Muslim women. The colleges and universities in Karnataka demanding and imposing ban on hijab in the campuses against the wishes of the Muslim students meant that Muslim women students were compelled to choose between education and freedom to practice their religion, though the women students have argued that the hijab in no way interferes with their conduct or performance in educational institutions. Notwithstanding this reasoning, the state upheld that religious symbols are not allowed in educational institutions. An open letter, calling ban on hijabs in campuses in Karnataka as a ‘hate crime’ and amounting to “apartheid” against Muslim women, was signed by nearly 2000 academics, women’s groups, lawyers and civil society activists (Chandra, 2022). Some Muslim women students couldn’t take their exams or attend classes since they were not allowed to enter classrooms in hijab. This denial to education is detrimental to the already socio-economically marginalized Muslim community in India where the women face double discrimination owing to gender and religion.
Karnataka High Court order of March 15, 2022 had dismissed a challenge to a February 5 Government Order (GO) that mandated the use of uniforms in pre-university schools and colleges in Karnataka. In a split judgment on the issue of hijab in educational institutions, Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia of Supreme court held diametrically opposite views on a gamut of issues ranging from the interpretation of reasonable restrictions of fundamental rights, the rights of the state vis-a-vis the fundamental rights of individuals and the right to education of young Muslim women.
Justice Gupta agreed with the Karnataka High Court verdict which upheld the ban on hijab. Justice Gupta stressed on the importance of discipline in educational institutions and that uniform in educational institutions is an equalizer. Religion, Justice Gupta said, had no meaning in a secular school run by the State, and the constitutional goal of fraternity would be defeated if students were permitted to carry their religious symbols to the classroom.
But Justice Dhulia stressed that to ask a pre-university school girl to take off her hijab at her school gate was an invasion of her privacy and dignity. It was violative of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution. She carried the right to her dignity and privacy inside the classroom as well. This right was not a derivative right. He also raised the critical issue that denying Muslim woman the right to education only because she wants to wear a hijab was handicapping her to face the challenges of life. He observed: “All the petitioners want is to wear a hijab. Is it too much to ask in a democracy? How is it against public morality, order or health? Or even decency or any other provision of part III of the Constitution.” Justice Dhulia said that reasonable accommodation was the sign of a mature society which has learnt to live and adjust with its differences, and added that the Karnataka High Court did not consider the question of diversity that the petitioners had raised but described it as “hollow rhetoric (Rajalakshmi, 2022)”.
Justice Dhulia stressed that the question of diversity and rich plural culture was important in the present context of the case. Pre-university colleges were the perfect institutions where empathy, sensitivity, and understanding towards other religions, languages and cultures could be fostered, and when students could realise that diversity is the country’s strength.
The assault by Hindu right wing students groups wearing saffron stoles on Muslim women in Mandya demonstrated at the impunity they enjoy even in educational institutions. This assault is also an attack on the agency of the Muslim women who choose to wear hijab. The assault on Muslim women in college campuses by activists wearing saffron stoles has encouraged harassment of Muslim women making them soft targets. Aliya Assadi, one of the students protesting against the ban on hijabs reported that she was getting abusive calls from unknown numbers and some people also forcefully entered her house (Times of India, 2022). The family of another student, Hazra Shifa, who is protesting against the hijab ban in college in Udupi and approached the Karnataka High Court to allow Muslim women to wear hijab in college campuses, was not spared when her brother was attacked and a restaurant belonging to her father was pelted stones at by a mob (The Hindu, 2022).
The ban also accompanied by a slew of hate speeches. Pragya Thakur BJP MP, while stigmatizing the Muslim community said, “those who face trouble or are unsafe at their homes, need to wear the hijab there. While outside, wherever there is ‘Hindu Samaj’, they are not required to wear Hijab, especially at places where they study. Wear hijab or khijab in madrasas, how does it matter to us? But if you disrupt the discipline of all schools and colleges across the country.. then it will not be tolerated” (Singh R. P., 2022).
Vicious and unfounded myths are promoted by the right wing about madrassas alleging that they are places for indoctrination of ideas of fundamentalism and terrorism without basis or evidence. The state since the last few years has been in a process to de-recognize madrassas especially in Assam. Madrassas are still accessible educational options to a section of Muslim society which for various practical reasons are not able to send their children to other schools. Madrassas also teach religious tenets of Islam. Attacks on madrassas including demolitions of madrassas and de-recognizing them are to achieve twofold objectives: firstly to demonize the Muslim community and secondly to deny religious education to Muslim children. However, the Muslim children coming from marginalized backgrounds suffer the most as they are denied access to affordable education.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights alleged that government-funded and recognized madrassas are giving admission to non-Muslim students and imparting religious education. The Commission instructed all states and Union Territories to conduct a detailed inquiry into the allegations, including physical verification of such students at the madrassas. It also ordered mapping of madrassas which have not been recognized in order to find non-Muslim children studying at such institutions (Scroll.in, 2022).
Authorities in Assam’s Marigaon district in August demolished Jamiul Huda Madrasa under the Disaster Management Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The Madrassa was run by a cleric Mufti Mustafa who was arrested for his alleged links with a Bangladesh-based terror outfit, Ansarullah Bangla, an affiliate of Al Qaeda. Subsequently, around 2,500 private madrassas in Assam need to get any potential recruit for a teaching job from outside the state verified by the police as part of a government-monitored mechanism to prevent “jihadi elements” from slipping through (Kalita, 2022). The Assam government had also asked people to report to police if the imam (cleric) or teacher of a Madrasa in their locality is from outside (Singh B. , 2022).
In Uttar Pradesh, the state announced a survey to identify and document the “unrecognized” madrassas. The argument of the state is by conducting this survey; the state will “mainstream” these institutions and introduce subjects like Mathematics, English, Hindi and Social Sciences. This it claims will produce quality professionals (Kumar, 2022). After the survey was completed, 8,500 madrasas in Uttar Pradesh have been found to be functioning without securing recognition from the state madrasa education Board.
Further, keeping in with the myth that madrassas impart religious training which works against interests of India, the Registrar of UP Madrasa Education Board Registrar, issued an order in this regard to minority welfare officers in all districts of the state to make recital of national anthem “Jana Gana Mana” compulsory in all recognized, aided and unaided madrasas of Uttar Pradesh from May (Srivastava, 2022). The UP administration in July demolished a madrassa in Jebra village in Amroha after complaints from “non-Muslims” in the village that “namaz was being read over a loudspeaker”. The local administration alleged that the madrassa was illegally built on government land seven months ago (Dabas, 2022).
In Madhya Pradesh, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government has decided to scrutinize the study material of madrasas in Madhya Pradesh following complaints and reports about Hindu children not only having been enrolled in madrasas instead of schools but also being taught books containing objectionable religious content (Singh, 2022).
Nupur Sharma protests
Nupur Sharma, BJP spokesperson, made derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammad. There were nationwide protests demanding her arrests. However, she was merely suspended after the BJP ruled government came under criticism by the international community. At the same, the protests were responded with violence, demolition of properties owned by Muslims and arrests of Muslims. The killings that followed in Udaipur of Kanhanyalal Teli and Umesh Kolhe in Amravati in Maharashtra were highly communalized. The cases were handled by National Investigative Agency (NIA) likening the killings to terrorism and demonizing the Muslim community further.
According to the monitoring by CSSS of Mumbai editions of three newspapers- The Hindu, Indian Express and Times of India, India witnessed 41 communal riots in the year 2022. This is against the 20 communal riots witnessed in 2021 as per the monitoring of CSSS. This amounts to nearly double the incidents of communal riots as compared to the last year. However, the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) figures are usually higher since it has access to more comprehensive data. According to NCRB data, a total of 378 cases of communal riots were registered in 2021, 857 in 2020, 438 in 2019, 512 in 2018 and 723 in 2017 against 20 in 2021, 10 in 2020, 25 in 2019, 38 in 2018 and 43 in 2017 as per CSSS monitoring (Indian Express, 2022).
The 41 communal riots in 2022 claimed seven lives in comparison to one life in 2021. Of the seven dead, two were Muslims, one Hindu and four unidentified. 334 were reportedly injured.
In the 41 communal riots, according to CSSS monitoring from the above mentioned newspapers, a total of 1279 arrests were made. Out of 1279 arrested, 163 were Muslims, 7 were Hindus and 1109 were unidentified. Here, two aspects are noteworthy. Firstly, that the police tend to under-reports arrests. Thus, the number of 1279 may be on the lesser side and there might be substantially higher number of arrests. Another aspect is that three newspapers limit the scope of the data available. CSSS during the fact-finding missions to Khargone, Khambhat and Himmatnagar found from the ground and lawyers that the number of arrests during these riots were very high. For instance, in Khargone alone, the police arrested approximately 80 persons, most of them Muslims. In Himmatnagar and Khambhat, all together over 60 Muslims were arrested in addition to a few Hindus. In Uttar Pradesh, after the protests over the controversial comments of Nupur Sharma, according to the police data, 350 were arrested in a span of a few days. Communal riots took place in Prayagraj and Kanpur after the protests. Of the 350 people arrested, 92 are from Prayagraj, 84 from Saharanpur, 55 from Hathras, 41 from Ambedkarnagar, 40 from Moradabad, 20 from Firozabad, seven from Lakhimpur Kheri, six from Aligarh and five from Jalaun (New Indian Express, 2022). In most cases after communal riots, a large number of persons in the FIR are mentioned as unidentified which is used as an opportunity to arbitrarily detain and arrest large number of Muslims for “investigation”.
In these riots, the Muslims ironically also faced high damages with their properties being looted, vandalized, and torched. The administration in addition demolished large number of properties owned by the Muslims after some riots. In states like UP and MP, the administration pursued cases to recover damages from Muslims alone. Collectively, these actions as well as the above numbers of arrests indicate towards double victimization of Muslims during communal riots. They suffer heavy damages in targeted violence and then are also penalized and criminalized by the state for the same violence. This is also a pattern that is observed in the past years in communal riots and continued in 2022.
There was a palpable shift in the way communal riots unfolded in 2022 compared to the previous years. Prominent trends were the use of religious festivals and related “yatras” or processions to target the Muslims, use of bulldozers by state as “collective punishment” inflicted on the Muslim community and changing nature of state in communal riots.
1. Change in the triggers- Religious festivals and the aggressive stand of the Hindu right wing organizations cause of most of the communal riots in 2022
Out of the total 41 communal riots, 19 were related to religious festivals, pointing towards how religious festivals are used as masquerades to plan communal riots. Earlier, communal riots did take place on religious festivals but they were different in nature. The triggers were spontaneous though the institutionalized riot system (IRS) took over after it was triggered. Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer explains these triggers as macro and micro. Local factors including conflicts between communities having economic reasons were understood as micro factors. Macro factors are larger factors including political ideology and myths or stereotypes against communities. In 2022, local factors yielded minimum influence in fomenting communal riots. Majority of the communal riots can be attributed to the hegemony of the Hindu right wing organizations wanting to demonstrate their superiority and domination by organizing “shobha yatra”, ‘Hanuman Jayanti’ or ‘Ram Navami’ processions widely and political in nature- a distinction from the past.
In the past few years especially from 2020, the right wing organizations and BJP party members are organizing processions under the garb of religion and insisting on going into Muslim majority areas and raising inflammatory slogans targeting and humiliating the Muslim community. When the stone pelting ensued, the Muslims are targeted by the state by terming them as ‘rioters’ and ‘stone pelters’ and razed down their properties using bulldozers. In 2020, communal riots took place in Ujjain where the Bajrang Dal and other Hindu right wing organizations went to Begumbaug area of Ujjain and raised objectionable slogans. After the stone pelting ensued, the local administration razed down a two storey building belonging to a Muslim owner though the stones were pelted from a neighbouring house belonging to a Hindu owner. In 2021, communal rights took place in Dhar in Madhya Pradesh where Hindu right wing organizations organized ‘Shourya Yatra’ procession.
Ram Navami Processions
12 incidents out of 19 were related to Ram Navami alone- three incidents in Himmatnagar, Khambhat and Gandhinagar in Gujarat, three incidents in Madhya Pradesh- one in Khargone city, one in Khargone rural and one in Sendhwa, three in Jharkhand- one in Koderma, one in Bokaro and one in Lohardaga. One incident took place in Mumbai in Maharashtra, one in Kolar in Karnataka and lastly in Howrah in West Bengal.
In Khambhat, Gujarat, riots broke out in Shakarpur area on 10th April when the procession organized by Hindu right wing organizations was in front of a mosque. Argument took place between some members of the procession and Muslim members of the area. Stone pelting ensued. The mob vandalized the houses mostly belonging to Muslims. One 65 year old Hindu man lost his life after being hit by a stone. The local administration too demolished small stalls and other properties belonging to Muslims. The explanation provided for the demolition was that the properties were “illegal” and used as a façade to pelt stones on the processions.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal organized procession on Ram Navami in Himmatnagar. The procession entered Ashraf Nagar, a Muslim-dominated area. When Muslims watched the passing procession from their terraces, slurs were reportedly exchanged and the Hindus accused the Muslims of mocking their festivities. This snowballed into a violent face-off. Subsequently, incidents of burning vehicles, stone pelting and vandalism of homes and businesses were widely reported (Aswani, 2022).
Communal riots broke out in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh on 10th April, when Ram Navami procession was organized by Hindu rightwing groups under the name of ‘Gauraksha Samiti’. The procession was given permission only till 5pm but it never left the area outside talab chowk mosque where the members of the procession had gathered by 5pm. Some members of procession raised objectionable slogans and displayed tableaus from the controversial film The Kashmir Files, with the slogan ‘Jago Hindu jago (Wake up, Hindus). Stone pelting took place subsequently. As per the police, over 26 houses, 12 vehicles, five shops, a godown and several religious places were either vandalized or were set on fire. One 23 year old Ibris Khan was killed in the stone pelting. The local administration demolished the properties belonging mostly to the Muslims claiming them to be illegal (Kakvi, The Wire, 2022).
Communal riots broke out in Sendhwa in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh after a few people allegedly threw stones at a Ram Navami procession, resulting in a clash in which two-wheelers were set on fire. On the basis of a complaint from a man whose bike was burnt, the police booked Shahbaaz Sheikh, Fakru Mansuri and Rauf Sheikh, all residents of Jogwara, for rioting and arson. Six cases were registered and 84 rioters arrested. The district administration and police demolished Shahbaaz’s house in Jogwara area (Hindustan Times, 2022).
Communal riots took place during the Ram navami Procession in Hirahi village in Lohardaga at around 5.30 pm on 10th April claiming one life and leaving four others injured. The clashes broke out after a group started pelting stones at the crowd during the Ramnavami procession in the area. More than a dozen motorcycles and a pickup van were set on fire following which; two houses were also set ablaze at Bhogta Garden Mela. Sub-Divisional Officer Arvind Kumar Lal claimed “there are sleeper cells that have emerged recently who are trying to disrupt the harmony of the place.” As many as 14 FIRs were registered and eight persons arrested (New Indian Express, 2022). In Koderma district’s Kolgarma village, Hindus participating in a similar Ram Navami procession entered a Muslim neighbourhood, ransacked a mosque and assaulted local residents, including women. In Bokaro, it was alleged that some youngsters were on their way to join a Ram Navami procession on a bike when they got into a fight with a group and were attacked with stones by them.
In Howrah, West Bengal, processions on Ram Navami were organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini. The members of the procession delivered provocative speeches and stone pelting ensued in Howrah’s Shibpur. Local police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd, but as the situation got worse, the Rapid Action Force had to be called in to bring the situation under control (Dutta, 2022).
On 8th April, communal riots took place in Mulbagal area in Kolar district of Karnataka. Stones were pelted on Ram Navami ‘shobha yatra’. Five people were detained and prohibitory orders enforced. Windshields of at least two cars got damaged in the incident, besides minor injuries to some youths. A two-wheeler was also set ablaze (Hindustan Times, 2022).
On 10th April, communal riot took place in Mankhurd, Mumbai on Ram Navami. Two people suffered minor injuries and 20 to 25 vehicles were vandalised after minor flare up between two communities. The Mankhurd police have registered a FIR against 25 members of both groups of hurting religious sentiments and arrested seven people.
Other religious festivals
In Khaggu Sarai area of Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh, some people threw colour on a mosque during a Holi procession on 18th March. Subsequently stone pelting ensued. The police arrived and ensured safe passage for the procession. The mosque was cleaned by local people and police and the police claimed that there was peace in the area (The Print, 2022). In another incident on Holi in Uttar Pradesh, communal riot broke out in Shamli when two groups clashed while playing holi. Several people were injured, including six who were hospitalized in serious condition, in the clash in which lathis, iron rods and brick bats were used. 26 persons were arrested (New Indian Express, 2022).
Communal riots took place in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh during a procession of Hanuman Jayanti on 16th April. In a clash that took place near a religious place, stone pelting ensued injuring 10 people. According to the police, devotional songs were being played during the procession while crossing a religious place. Police told procession leaders to stop playing the songs as prayers were going on nearby. The procession organisers complied, but as soon as they crossed over, the songs resumed, which irked members of another group who started hurling stones at the procession (Indian Express, 2022). In Jahangirpuri in Delhi, Bajrang Dal had organized a ‘shobha yatra’ on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti. The members of the procession were waving saffron flags in front of the mosque which led to clashes between the two communities. The procession had already made the rounds of the mosque twice and the locals objected to the third round according to a fact finding. 22 persons were arrested- most of them Muslims (Jain & Pal, 2022). Subsequently, properties belonging to Muslims in Jahangirpuri were demolished the following day alleging they were “illegal”. In another incident, on 16th April, communal riots broke out in Roorkee village during a procession on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti. Muslim raised objections over a song being played on the loudspeaker mounted on a vehicle when it was passing a local mosque. Stone pelting ensued. One car, two motorcycles and a hut was set on fire. Ten persons including a sub inspector were injured. Police registered a complaint against 12 identified and 40 unidentified persons. 11 persons were arrested (Times of India, 2022).
On 2nd April 2022, the bike rally was taken out by Hindu outfits in Karauli city of Rajasthan, on the occasion of Nav Samvatsar, the first day of the New Year under the Hindu calendar. When the procession reached near a mosque, some miscreants pelted stones on them. This resulted in stone pelting and arson by the other side too in which a few two-wheelers and shops were torched. 40 people sustained injuries. 6 shops were set ablaze. Police arrested 13 people for rioting, assault and for hurting the sentiments of a community. 18 were arrested for disturbing peace.
Hindu New Year
On April 17, 2022 communal clashes broke out between two groups on the occasion of the Kalash Yatra. Around 500 people participated in the Kalash yatra at Shiv temple in Arey in Goregaon. The procession was passing a nearby the Buddha Vihar. 100 people were present in Buddha Vihar at that time. People from Buddha Vihar took objection to the people in the procession chanting loudly and dancing in their premises. That resulted in kicks and blows on each other and stone pelting. 25 persons were arrested (Times of India, 2022).
Protests over comments made by Nupur Sharma
Muslims protested against the derogatory comments made by BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma against Prophet Mohammad. In some of the protests, there were reportedly clashes between the Muslims and the police. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, the protests in Kanpur and Prayagraj turned violent. In Kanpur, some members of the Muslim community had called for shutting of shops on the day of the protest on 3rd June in Nai Sadak and Yateemkhana areas but the other community objected. Stones were pelted. Three FIRs have been lodged in the case in which 40 people have been charged with rioting and 1,000 others have been mentioned as unidentified. Serious sections of IPC including 148, 149, 153, 307, 323, 336, 504, 507 and section 7 of the Criminal Amendment Act have been invoked in the FIRs. The police Hayat Zafar Hashmi and three others were arrested (Kumar, 2022). The administration used demolitions as a form of collective punishment in Kanpur to demolish the properties of Muslims. “Not only those involved in the violence are being identified with the help of video clips of the incident, those who conspired in the act will also not be let off. As many as 18 people have been arrested. The accused and the conspirators will be booked under the Gangsters Act and their properties will be seized or demolished” said Prashant Kumar, ADG, Law and Order (Siddiqui, 2022). In Prayagraj, the protestors pelted stones at police on 9th June. Some motorcycles and carts were set on fire and an attempt was made to set ablaze a police vehicle. Police used tear gas and lathis to disperse mobs (NDTV, 2022).
In Ranchi, Jharkhand, on 10th June protests were organized against the comments of Nupur Sharma. The police fired in the air to disperse the crowd and stone pelting too took place. In the violence, two protestors died from bullet injuries. Ranchi SSP Surendra Jha, another officer, and a policeman too sustained injuries (Indian Express, 2022). In Howrah, West Bengal, the protestors clashed with police during the protests on 10th June. The protests turned violent for two consecutive days. The police resorted to throwing of tear shell gas to disperse the mob. The administration has imposed prohibitory orders till June 15. Internet services also remained suspended across the district till June 13 (Nair, 2022).
In Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, communal riots broke out after the death of Rakesh Kumar Pandey (17) in February. Pandey had participated in the Saraswati puja idol immersion. During a scuffle, he was assaulted. When his body was found, a mob burnt down vehicles and pelted stones. Internet services were debarred in the district as also in Koderma, Giridih, Chatra, Ramgarh and Bokaro for some time to prevent rumour-mongering. FIR was lodged against 27 persons besides many unknown people and four Muslims were arrested. Prohibitory orders under section 144 were imposed in Barhi.
In Navsari, Gujarat, communal riots took place after communal tensions developed between two groups related to playing a cricket match. The matter escalated and members from both communities gathered and attacked each other with deadly weapons. In the clash that ensued, a 65-year-old man died. Seven people were arrested. In another incident in Vadodara in Gujarat in April, according to the police, a minor accident led to stone pelting and communal riots in Raopura area of Vadodara. The police claimed that the culprits are criminals with past records (Times of India, 2022). In another incident in Vadodara, on 3rd October, clash took place between two communities in a vegetable market in Savli after the Muslim community tied religious flags on poles as their festival was approaching. There was a temple close to the poles where the flags were tied. Violence broke out when a group of Hindu members went to complain how their religious feelings were hurt due to the flags. The police claimed that after the FIR was filed, accused from both communities were arrested. In total 40 persons were arrested (India Today, 2022). In Vadodara, on 24th October, a clash took place between two communities over bursting of firecrackers on Diwali in communally sensitive Panigate area. The police reported that rocket bombs were hurled by the members of the two communities on each other and a motorcycle caught on fire. The police claimed that it detained 19 accused from both the communities including a person who allegedly hurled a petrol bomb on the police (Times of India, 2022)
In Undhela village in Gujarat’s Kheda district, a group of Muslim men allegedly attacked a garba site near a mosque on the night of October 3.Kheda Superintendent of Police Rajesh Gadhiya said that the sarpanch of the village had organized a garba on a plot of ground that was close to both a temple and a mosque. When Muslims objected, the sarpanch said the function would end in 45 minutes or so. Gadhiya claimed that the Muslims didn’t agree to the event and pelted stones at the garba attendees. The next day, the Muslims allegedly involved in the incident were dragged out in public, tied to a pole and flogged by the police while a crowd cheered them on. Videos of the flogging show the men being asked to apologize to the public. They are then led into the Kheda police bus, still being beaten. 13 people were arrested for rioting, unlawful assembly and attempt to murder in relation to the communal riot. No case was filed for the flogging and the police claimed they were enquiring into the incident (Iyer, Scroll.in, 2022)
A mob threw stones at police and attacked a constable with a sword in the Bhim town of Rajsamand district, Rajasthan when police lobbed teargas shells to prevent them from marching towards a mosque on 28th June, a day after the murder of a tailor in Udaipur. The mob wanted to attack the mosque. The police used tear gas shells to bring the situation under control (The Print, 2022).
On Monday May 4, 2022 Azad Mansoori (45) and Sadam Hassan (35), were attacked by at least eight masked assailants in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan. Victims were sitting outside the shrine when some people came on four bikes started shouting and then attacked both of them. Attackers set on fire a bike outside the shrine before hitting them. However police claimed personal enmity to be behind the attack. At least 12 persons were detained and Kanhaiya alias Kanha was arrested (Times of India, 2022).
In Jodhpur, Rajasthan, communal riots took place on 3rd May, when some Muslims were putting up religious flags hours before Eid on Jalori gate circle on a roundabout alongside the statue of freedom fighter Balmukund Bissa. This led to a confrontation as members of the other community alleged that a saffron flag, which they had put up there ahead of Parshuram Jayanti, had gone missing. This culminated into a riot and stone pelting ensued. Police used tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. 50 people were arrested (NDTV, 2022).
In March, a group which watched the controversial film, Kashmir Files in theater of Achalpur in Amravati area, Maharashtra, reached near the Lal Bridge, shouting the slogan of Jai Shri Ram. Abhay Mathane, BJP city unit head and thee group then hoisted Saffron flags at Dulha gate. Provoked, another group confronted them. The violence injured some youth. Mathane along with the others were arrested. The BJP in Maharashtra which that the time of the violence was the opposition party was demanding screening of the ‘Kashmir Files’ free of tax. But the Maha Vikas Aghadi government refused to make the film tax free (Singh, 2022).
On May 4, a scuffle broke out between two communities at a park in North east Delhi night over a petty fight between children while playing in the park. Police registered a complaint under rioting. Three arrested and 30 people have been detained who were involved in communal clashes, no casualties were reported (Indian Express, 2022).
In Karnataka, members of right wing organization, Sri Ram Sene attacked and vandalized in April, the stalls of Muslim fruit vendors whose shop are on the premises of the Nuggikeri Hanumantha temple in Dharwad. Police arrested 4, Mailarappa Guddappanavar, Mahaling Aigali, Chidanand Kalal and Kumar Kattiman. The assault took place in the presence of police. The right wing organizations had given an ultimatum to the temple governing body to evict the Muslim fruit vendors and urged devotees to not buy fruits from the Muslim fruit vendors (The Wire, 2022).
Harsha Nagaraj, 26 years old Bajrang Dal worker, was stabbed to death allegedly by a gang of youths that waylaid him when he stepped out of his home on 21st February in Shivamogga in Karnataka. Arson and stone pelting took place during his funeral procession. When the funeral procession passed through the city, with a large number of pro-Hindutva activists taking part, stones were hurled at buildings and vehicles in Muslim-dominated areas, and a few two-wheelers were set on fire. Kashif and Nadeem, both locals from Shivamogga were arrested. Harsha had a history of being slapped with multiple cases including rioting. The murder was also attributed to a derogatory post on Islam (Indian Express, 2022).
On, April 16, communal riots took place in Hubballi, Karnataka over a social media post. A youth posted derogatory comments on his whatsapp status. The post showed a morphed image of a saffron flag flying on a mosque. 126 people arrested including four minors. 12 police including an inspector suffered injuries. AIMIM leader Irfan Nalvatwad, husband of AIMIM corporator Hussainbi Nalwatwadi was detained and questioned (Times of India, 2022).
In Chakradharpur of Jharkhand, communal riot took place after two groups clashed on 12th November when the body of Kamaldev Giri (35) was being taken to the crematorium by his supporters. He was a Bajrang Dal activist and was killed when crude bombs were hurled at him by motorcycle borne miscreants. Most shops and markets in Bharat Bhawan chowk downed their shutters. The police used lathicharge and tear gas shells to disperse the mob (Times of India, 2022).
In Surjani village of Mandsaur district in Madhya Pradesh, a rift between 14-year-old Salman Khan and 32-year-old Shivlal Patidar over a speeding bike took a communal turn on 2nd October. When Patidar went to complain to the father of Khan, the confrontation turned violent with the members of both the communities clashed near a garba pandal. A whatsapp post went viral that Muslims on Surjani attacked a garba pandal and around 1000 people from the neighbouring village turned up at Surjani. Police booked 19 Muslims and apprehended seven, including the minor Salman, on allegations of pelting stones at the Garba. Within 12 hours after lodging the FIR, the district administration put on “building permission” notices outside the houses of three of the accused. The following day, all three houses were razed to the ground (Kakvi, News Click, 2022).
2. Anti- Christian Violence
Between December 9th and December 18th, there were a series of attacks in about 18 villages in Narayanpur and 15 villages in Kondagaon in Chhattisgarh, displacing about 1,000 Christian Adivasis from their villages, according to a fact finding report a fact finding mission organized collectively by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, All India Peoples Forum, All India Lawyers Association for Justice and United Christian Forum. The Christians were attacked by Hindu right wing to intimidate them to give up their faith. The team was also told that the Christians were forced into converting into Hindu religion. While these attacks took place in 33 villages, in this report, the authors are treating it as one communal riot. There have been more than one communal riots forcing displacement of the 1000 Christians but since the authors are unsure about if physical rioting took place in all the 33 villages, the incidents are counted as one single incident. The Christians at some places left out of intimidation and fear.
3. Theatre of Violence- Gujarat reports highest number of riots
The highest number of communal riots according to CSSS monitoring took place in the state of Gujarat. Eight communal riots took place in Gujarat. This is quite contrary to the claims of the leaders of the ruling party that Gujarat is free of communal riots. Riots took place in communally sensitive cities of Khambhat and Vadodara which have history of communal riots. The second highest number of riots (5) took place in the state of Jharkhand. Jharkhand over the last few years has emerged as communally volatile. Three out of these five took place on the occasion of Ram Navami as described above. The states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan witnessed four communal riots each. Three communal riots took place in Maharashtra. Two communal riots took place each in Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal. One communal riot took place in Uttarakhand and Andhra Pradesh each. As mentioned above, the series of attacks on Christians in 33 villages in Chhattisgarh is counted here as one. In all probability, this figure is higher.
Zone wise break up of communal riots points to the volatile and communally sensitive nature of the North zone which alone account for 17 communal riots combined in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. The west zone consisting of only Gujarat and Maharashtra witnessed 11 communal riots, making it perhaps the most sensitive. The East zone which include West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, witnessed eight communal riots. The South zone which includes Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka witnessed five communal riots.
4. Regime wise breakup indicates BJP ruled states have maximum number of communal riots
Out of the total 41 communal riots that took place, 21 communal riots took place in states where Bharatiya Janata Party ruled. 9 communal riots took place in Congress ruled states. Two riots took place in West Bengal ruled by the Trinamool Congress and another two riots took place in Delhi and one in Punjab (in total 3) where the Aam Adami Party is in power. It is to be noted that the communal riots where BJP is not ruling have taken place due to active role of Hindu right wing groups or communal discourse promoted by BJP. This is especially true in the case of West Bengal and Rajasthan. One riot in West Bengal took place on the occasion of Ram Navami which is used a pretext by Hindu right wing organizations in West Bengal to communally polarize the state. In the previous years too, West Bengal witnessed communal riots due to the aggressive armed rallies organized by the Hindu right wing organizations. The other communal riot took place in West Bengal during the protests against Nupur Sharma’s derogatory comments on Prophet Mohammad and the inaction against her by the state. In Delhi, one riot took place on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti where the mob led by right wing organizations raised derogatory slogans. In the communal riot in Amravati in Maharashtra, BJP leader Abhay Mhante led a group of miscreants who raised objectionable slogans after watching Kashmir Files and violence ensued.
5. State took on the role of Rioter in most cases
The most prominent highlight or pattern that emerged in 2022 on communal riots is the role of the state which took on the role of the rioter, destroying the properties of the Muslims to inflict maximum damage on them. Through the state driven demolitions which became a norm, the state demonstrated that the Muslims are second class citizens and can be easily humiliated by Hindu right wing organizations with impunity. Demolitions were used so extensively in UP that CM Yogi Adityanath as given the nomenclature of “bulldozer baba”. Narottam Mishra, Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Shivraj Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh tried weaving the narrative that Muslims are rioters and thus will be punished by razing down their houses to rubble. At the same time, the local administration in these states claimed after demolitions that the structures demolished were “illegal”. The owners of the properties were not given notices as prescribed by law- some served notices just a night prior the demolitions. Ironically, even if the demolitions were a response to stone pelting, most of the places where properties were demolished were far away from the areas where the riots had taken place making it improbable that stones were pelted from those properties during the riots. Thus, demolitions were used as a weapon to intimidate and inflicting damages on the Muslim community.
It is to be noted that in the states where BJP didn’t rule, the response of the state during riots was different. While demolitions were freely used in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat ruled by BJP where communal riots took place on Ram Navami, demolitions were not resorted to in Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal which also witnessed communal riots on Ram Navami. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh government where BJP is in power demolished properties of Muslims in Kanpur, Saharanpur and Prayagraj after riots triggered during protests against Nupur Sharma’s derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad, in other states like West Bengal, government didn’t resort to demolitions of properties belonging to Muslims.
State’s role at prevention of riots
The police in most of the communal riots failed to prevent riots. In fact in the places where communal riots took place on Ram Navami or other religious processions, the police gave permission to the Hindu right wing organizations to organize processions which were political in nature- sloganeering targeting the Muslims, armed participants with swords, saffron flags etc. In most of the places where communal riots took place on Ram Navami, processions in the previous years were very small, usually taken out by some senior members of the community on shorter routes and were inconspicuous. But the police which is expected to have intelligence and reasonably could predict violence given the patterns emerging from the last two years, gave permission to Hindu right wing organizations who take out processions. It is police failure to prevent riots.
Response to riot
During the communal riots too, police at some places like Himmatnagar, Khambhat and Khargone were seen protecting the Hindu mob or being on their side. The police didn’t respond to the cries of help of the Muslims whose houses were looted or set to fire even when they were present on the spot. The action of the police largely remained one sided during the riots and they failed to protect the victims.
Bringing culprits to justice
The state’s partisan role is most pronounced at this stage where it targeted Muslims and criminalized them instead of conducting impartial probe. In Khambhat, Himmatnagar and Khargone, the police at the initial stages refused to register FIRs from the Muslim side. The FIRs either filed by police personnel or Hindu leaders- in the case of Khambhat by the Sarpanch, they named Muslims and large number of “unidentified” persons. This also gave them a pretext to go after innocent persons and detain or arrest them arbitrarily to “investigate”. Many poor labourers and daily wage workers were arrested in these cases. According to CSSS monitoring based on the three newspapers, 29 Muslims were arrested while 11 Hindus were arrested in the 40 communal riots where the identity of the arrested was revealed. Very little action is taken against the leaders of the Hindu right wing leaders who participated in the violence and mobilized others to perpetuate violence. The state gave such groups impunity and emboldened them to target the Muslim community.
Additionally, as mentioned above, the state itself assumed the role of the rioter by using bulldozers to raze down the properties of the Muslims to inflict maximum damage on them. In states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, where laws related to recovery of damages to public property exists, the Muslims were made to pay heavy damages. For instance, in Madhya Pradesh, a twelve year old boy was made to pay heavy damages!
6. New Category of communal violence-Communally Motivated Attacks:
In 2022, there are some instances of physical violence which are neither mob lynching nor communal riots. This violence is targeted at an individual/ individuals owing to their religious identity and an act of hatred. These acts of violence are highly condemnable and strictest action under the appropriate laws must be taken to bring the culprits to justice. The prominent examples of this violence are the beheading of Kanhaya Lal Teli and murder of Umesh Kolhe. Kanhaiya Lal Teli was a tailor in Udaipur, Rajasthan. He was murdered in his own shop on 28th June by Mohammad Riyaz and Ghouse Mohammad and accused posted a video online of the incident claiming it was in retaliation for Teli sharing remarks made by former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohammad.
In a civilized society where rule of law prevails, such acts of depravity have no place and must be punished according to law. However, these cases of communally motivated attacks were used as a tool to paint the whole Muslim community as “terrorists”. The union government handed the case over to National Investigative Agency (NIA) to explore “terror angle” to the incident, likening these incidents to terror attacks. In a similar incident, Umesh Kolhe, chemist based in Amravati, Maharashtra was murdered by on June 21 allegedly for a social media post supporting former BJP national spokesperson Nupur Sharma who made controversial comments against Prophet Mohammad during a television debate. This case too was handed to the NIA and the accused also booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Pratik Pawar, 23, was attacked by a mob in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, accusing him of supporting the post of Nupur Sharma on social media. He was admitted in ICU for injuries to his head and other parts of the body. FIR was registered against 14 Muslims. Four were arrested (Times of India, 2022).
In Kerala, there was a series of political but also communal murders. S K Srinivasan (45), a former district leader and office-bearer of RSS, was attacked by a six-member gang at his motorbike shop in Melamuri in Palakkad town. He was allegedly attacked by SDPI/PFI activists. He was murdered in a span of less than 24 hours of the murder of Subair, PFI activist killed at Elappully. He was returning along with father Aboobacker on a motorbike after attending noon prayers at local mosque. The assailants knocked the bike down using their car and then hacked him to death (New Indian Express, 2022).
Innocent citizens were targeted by mobs and lynched in 2022 as has been the case in India in the past few years. In comparison to 2021, in 2022 saw a slight jump in the cases of mob lynching at 17 from 15 in 2021. However, the number of mob lynching cases related to cow vigilantism has doubled in 2022 in contrast to 2021. While in 2021 only four cases of mob lynching were related to cow vigilantism, in 2022 this number goes up to 8.
The total of 17 mob lynching claimed nine lives- four Muslims, four Hindus, one Christian and two unidentified as opposed to 11 lives in 2021. Despite this loss of life and targeting of innocent in the most gruesome manner which is continuing unabated, the state still does not collect or maintain data on mob lynching.
The highest number of mob lynching took place in the state of Karnataka (4). This was followed by two each in Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Bihar, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana witness one mob lynching each.
Out of the 17 incidents of mob lynching, eight incidents were related to cow vigilantism. The incidents were as follows:
- In Samastipur, Bihar, cow vigilantes killed 32 years old Khalil Ahmed who was also a JDU worker in February 2022. A video clip shared on social media purportedly shows at least two persons beating Khalil up with canes, pulling him by the hair and asking him how much beef he ate and who slaughtered “gau mata“. On 18 February, Khalil’s charred body was found by police near the banks of the Burhi Gandak River. While the police arrested Krishna Kumar Jha, who is believed to be among those seen attacking Khalil in the video, they were looking for one Anurag Jha from whose instagram handle the video clip went viral (Mishra, 2022).
- A 26-year-old man Litan Miah from the Tarapukur area, a bordering village in the Dhanpur area, was lynched on suspicion of cattle theft in Baramura village of Tripura’s Sepahijala district in March. Police later arrested two people after the victim’s father lodged a complaint.
- A group of 10 to 15 persons claiming to be “gau rakshaks” killed 59 years old Rajaram and injured five others on the suspicion of cow slaughter in Dwarka’s Chhawla area in Delhi in April. After the meat was tested, the police registered two cases, one for alleged cow slaughter and another for assault and murder. Five persons were arrested for alleged cow slaughter (Chand, 2022).
- Two tribal men -Dhansa, 54 & Sampat Batti 60 were lynched by 10 to 15 people on the suspicion of cow slaughter and another man Brajesh, who intervene to save them, was gravely beaten up in Simaria village of Madhya Pradesh’s Seoni district around 3.00 am in early May. The Congress, opposition party in MP alleged that accused were associated with Bajrang Dal. The National Human Rights Commission took action in the case after a complaint by a rights activist. Special Investigation Team (SIT) was constituted to probe the entire incident. Seoni district police superintendent Kumar Prateek was removed from the tribal-dominated district and as was the entire staff of Kurai police station and Badalpur police chowki of the same district. Police arrested 9 (Mohan, 2022).
- Intezar Ali Shaikh was lynched to death while two others were injured when the mob of around 60 persons- residents Rawale in Raigad district, attacked them for alleged theft of cattle. The mob beat them up with logs and set their car ablaze. Three FIRs were registered. Shaikh had around seventeen cases of stealing and cutting cattle in the past (Parida, 2020).
- 50-year-old Nazir Ahmad was beaten to death on suspicion of smuggling cows by cow vigilantes near Brakhad village of Madhya Pradesh’s Narmadapuram district at midnight on August 2. The three were taking the cows to Amravati to sell them off in cattle fair. Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Maharashtra’s Amravati was allegedly transporting 28 cows along with Shaikh Lala (38) and Sayed Mushtaq (40) from nearby village named Nanderwada of Narmadapuram district when a group of cow vigilantes armed with sticks and rods, stopped the truck and assaulted them. Police have lodged two FIRs in connection with the incident – one against attackers and another against the survivors (Kakvi, 2022).
- Over two dozen men waylaid and thrashed two men ferrying cows in a pickup vehicle on Benar Road under Kardhani police station end of July. The pickup driver, Ram Swarup Meena in his FIR to the Kardhani police said that he is a resident of Chatarpura village and Munshi Khan, a resident of Harmada, had hired him to transport two cows and calves to Ramgarh Road on the outskirts of Jaipur in Rajasthan. As per the FIR, some persons blocked the road with stones near a temple so that Meena’s vehicle could not go ahead. The FIR states that both Meena and Khan have sustained serious injuries, in the assault. The Kardhani police said that one of the accused, Rinku Kumawat has been identified in the FIR while the others are unknown. The FIR was registered under IPC Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), and 379 (theft) (Times of India, 2022).
- Ashish Kamlakar Barik, an animal welfare officer and Pratik Nanavare, animal activist were hit on the head with sticks in an attack by a mob when they had accompanied police personnel to raid a truck suspected to be carrying beef in Mumbai in January. The police were going to send the meat to the laboratory to verify if it was beef. Seven persons were accused (Singh & Ali, 2022).
Other pretexts for mob lynching:
Suspicion of being involved in a fight between Muslim and Hindu over eve teasing
19 years old Shamir was stabbed to death by seven to eight people in Nargund town in North Karnataka’s Gadag district in January. Shamshir Pathan and Shamir were attacked by some unknown people when they were traveling after work. Shamshir Pathan managed to escape but Shamir died due to a stabbing. Police arrested Mallikarjun (20), Chennabasappa (19), Sakrappa (19), and a local Bajrang Dal leader Sanju Nalvadi (35). Shamir’s brother Sahil said there was an incident of an eve-teasing a month ago involving some Hindu boys and Muslim girls. In retaliation, relatives of one of the girls attacked the boys, in which one of the boys lost his finger. Shamir was targeted on the suspicion that he was involved in the attack. Police said that before killing Shabir a Bajrang dal leader and some boys gathered in front of the police station and were calling the youth to beat up Muslims where they found them. On the day of the violence, one of the accused, Nalavadi was actively involved in a rally organized in Naragund where calls were made for violence against Muslims (Indian Express, 2022).
Saif, 20 years old, brother of Hajra Shifa, a girl from a group of girls from Government PU College for Girls, Udupi, who were protesting the hijab ban, was brutally beaten up by right-wing activists in February. This assault on Saif was an act of revenge for his support to his sister, who is opposing the hijab ban. Shifa claimed that their house and shops have been damaged by the culprits. Police registered a case and arrested three people identified as Deepak, 25, who allegedly slapped the victim, Manoj, 25, and Sanil Raj, 26, who works at Malpe harbor (Times of India, 2022).
Suspicion of religious conversion
35-year-old Kelom Kalyan Tet, a pastor was assaulted on February 25 by a mob in Delhi that accused him of being on a conversion mission. According to his complaint, he had gone to the Bhati Mines area to meet a friend. When he was leaving, some local residents accosted him and forced him to chant “Jai Sri Ram.” Tet said that some women objected to him being beaten and asked the mob to take him to a police station instead. Tet was bundled into a car to be taken to the station but was instead taken to the Fatehpur Beri Chowk crossroad, where both his hands were tied to the divider of the road and the mob incited people by accusing Tet of forceful religious conversions. The police did not write Tet’s complaint readily and delayed it (Iyer, 2022).
Selling of Halal Meat
Sayyad Ansar, owner of a Chicken shop and his relative Tausif were assaulted by a group of 10 to 15 persons who demanded non halal meat in the shop in Bhadravathi in Shivamogga district in March. An argument ensued and the Hindu activists assaulted the victims. This attack came against the background of the demands of the Hindu right wing organizations to ban halal meat in Shivamogga and Chikkamagaluru districts. The Bajrang Dal workers also undertook a door- to- door campaign and distributed leaflets, urging people to buy meat and groceries from only ‘Hindu shops’ (Sagar, 2022).
Suspicion over ‘love jihad’
Mohammad Sanif, 19-year-old B.com student of a College at Sullia in Karnataka, was beaten up by a group of Hindu students on August 30 for being friends with a Hindu girl student. Sanif, a resident of Jalsoor Village, was talking to his Hindu friend. The accused did not like Sanif talking to the Hindu girl and took him to the college playground. The accused assaulted Sanif with a wooden log. The police arrested five students for assaulting Sanif and four students for supporting the assault (The Siasat Daily, 2022).
A group of men, armed with sticks and chanting slogans, stopped two brothers, Zeeshan (24) and Faizan (21) who were out to buy pizza from a local outlet in Ranchi, asked them their names, and then allegedly beat them up severely on finding out that they were Muslims, according to a complaint filed with police by one of the two brothers. The attack took place in the Sujata Chowk area around 8 pm on June 10; hours after a protest in the city over controversial remarks on the Prophet turned violent. The mob carrying weapons attacked them on their head due to which they sustained head injuries. It required stitches after heavy bleeding (Angad, 2022).
Mubeen Qureshi, a resident of Farah, Mathura district in Uttar Pradesh, had on July 10 gone to his fields to gather fodder for his animals when a group of men from the Dharmpura Pulia area allegedly assaulted him and forced him to chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. One of the accused uploaded the video on social media. According to Mubeen, one of the accused held his beard and told him that he is an “anti-national” and his people have murdered Kanhaiya Lal. Kanhaiya Lal was beheaded in Udaipur by two accused after he had extended support to suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who had made allegedly offensive remarks on Prophet Muhammad. Two accused have been arrested (The Wire, 2022).
Syed Lateefuddin, an Uber driver, in Hyderabad was chased and attacked by a group of six men who forced him to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ on September 4. They also robbed Lateefuddin of Rs 6000 and took some of his documents. They damaged his car too. Lateefuddin managed to escape and call 100 when he hid in bushes (The news Minute, 2022).
Rupesh Kumar Pandey, was killed allegedly in an idol immersion ceremony of Goddess Saraswati in Hazaribagh in Jharkhand on 6th February. There was allegedly a clash between the members of two communities and Pandey was attacked. Four persons have been arrested for their involvement in the clash. Riots broke out in Hazaribagh after this incident (The Print, 2022). Family members of Rupesh Kumar Pandey have called for action under the provisions of the Prevention of Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill, 2021. However, the police and state claimed that this was a murder due to personal enmity.
Role of state
The state out of eight cases of mob lynching related to cow vigilante has slapped charges against the victims in three cases under anti- cow slaughter legislations, thereby criminalizing them. This encourages and emboldens the cow vigilante to attack at will. The police is not always prompt or impartial to act against the culprits, delaying justice to the victims.
Role of Hindu Right wing
Out of the 17 incidents of mob lynching, five has direct involvement of right wing organizations as per the news reports. In Nargund, Karnataka, the Bajrang Dal leader is one of the main accused where 19 years old Shamir was lynched to death. In the attack on Saif and his restaurant in Udupi, the Hindu right wing organizations were involved as per the reports. In Karnataka Shivmogga, the Bajrang Dal has undertaken door to door campaign in urging people to ban meat from Muslim owned shops and created an atmosphere of hatred. In Ranchi too, the two Muslim men were attacked when the Hindu right wing organizations had mobilized many people to create anti-Muslim sentiment post the Nupur Sharma controversy. In Seoni, Madhya Pradesh, the opposition party has alleged that the mob which killed the two Adivasis had involvement of the Bajrang Dal. This pattern indicates the impunity the Hindu right wing enjoys under the ruling regime.
Cover photo: Curfew was imposed in Bihar’s Aurangabad after communal clashes on Ram Navami last year.
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism