National Alliance of People’s Movements demands stringent legal action against persons and organizations who incited and participated in the violence
NEW DELHI – National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said that it’s deeply disturbed and outraged at multiple instances targeting the Muslim community and their localities, places of worship in the districts of Mandsaur, Ujjain and Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
“We clearly see a pattern in these crimes to incite hate and violence against Muslims by certain Hindutva forces, with the BJP-ruled state government remaining lukewarm to the offences being committed,” said a statement issued by NAPM on Sunday.
NAPM is an alliance of progressive people’s organizations and movements in India. It is an umbrella organisation for a larger alliance integrating various civil society organisations and individuals working towards similar goals.
“We are worried about the deteriorating atmosphere, appeal for calm from all communities and call for stringent action by the state government against the right-wing goons and organizations who have been responsible for the vandalism and violations,” reads the statement signed by over 50 prominent public figures like Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Binayak Sen, Kavita Srivastava, Kailash Meena, Sandeep Pandey, Rajeev Yadav, Masihuddin bhai, etc.
NAPM has demanded an independent and time-bound judicial investigation into all the incidents of violence; stringent legal action against the concerned persons and organizations who incited and participated in the violence as well as action against officials who were responsible for dereliction of duty; government must ensure the complete safety and security of all citizens, in particular those belonging to the vulnerable minority community; payment of appropriate compensation to all those persons whose property has been damaged; and denial of permission to any public rallies in the name of ‘temple construction’.
The NAPM has also demanded from the government of Madhya Pradesh to immediately withdraw the unconstitutional Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Bill, 2020 that seeks to legitimise violence against minorities and their faith.
The NAPM has also documented all the violent incidents. It says that based on reports in the media and field information, it is learnt that as part of the week-long donation drive for construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, multiple incidents have occurred in the past week in the Malwa-Nimad region, a stronghold of the RSS.
BJYM Rally & Communal Incidents in Begumbagh, Ujjain:
On 25th December, about 300 members of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) and other right-wing organisations reportedly shouted inflammatory slogans, prompting residents to object to their rally in the Begumbagh locality, leading to stone-pelting and injuries to 11 individuals, with one person grievously injured. A day later, the Ujjain Municipal Corporation (UMC) came to remove ‘illegal structures’ in the area. However, a local social worker Mohammad Ayub claims that, when UMC officials realized that the house they were about to demolish belonged to a Hindu named Meerabai, they instead demolished the adjacent two-storey house of Abdul Hameed (Abdul Rafiq). Meerabai, who has temporarily given a room to Abdul to stay, says her neighbour is a working class person who built the house with hard work of 35 years.
Reports indicate that the police have so far arrested up to 18 residents of Begum Bagh, of whom about ten members (including Ayaz Mohammad, Wasim Aslam, Shadab Akram and Altu Aslam) have been booked under National Security Act (NSA) and ten others have been booked on charges of attempt to murder, rioting, voluntarily causing hurt and giving false statement. At least two of these are women. Apparently the police are on the lookout for two Muslim women, Hina and Yasmeen. It is not clear if any members of the BJYM/rally participants have been arrested yet, in spite of video evidence showing them pelting stones.
Right-wing Rally in Chandan khedi, Indore
On 28th December, ‘clashes’ with stone-pelting were reported from Indore during a rally organised by right-wing groups through Gautumpura, in Chandankhedi, an area with sizeable Muslim population, leaving 5 people injured. As reported by officials, around 200 people chanted ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ and “Jai Shri Ram” slogans outside the mosque when prayers were being offered inside. This led to a heated exchange between the group of 200 people and Muslims, and to stone pelting. Witnesses inform that some members from the rally holding saffron flags climbed the mosque and tried to damage the minaret. Videos also showed the Hindutva group members trying to damage nearby houses and vehicles. The Indore Police claims to have arrested up to 30 people, of which at least 27 are villagers and plans to make more arrests under NSA. A day after this incident, district administration began demolishing around 80 houses in the Muslim-locality of the village, for ‘widening the road’ and stated that this had ‘nothing to do’ with the violence on the previous day.
VHP Mega Rally in Dorana, Mandsaur
It has been reported that on the afternoon of December 29, a rally of an estimated 5,000 workers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) marched the streets of Dorana village in Mandsaur district. At about the same time, a large mob played loud DJ music outside the mosque, vandalized and looted properties for almost 3-4 hours in the Muslim locality, which constitutes one-fifth of the village population. They also placed a saffron flag on the mosque. Petrified at the manner in which they were targeted, many Muslims, including women, fled their homes and some hid in the fields. VHP, however, claims their rally was ‘peaceful’ and ‘some other miscreants’ were responsible for the incident. The District SP has stated on record that no permission was taken for the rally.
Media reports indicate damaged window panes, broken doors, walls scribbled with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and many Muslim villagers scared to return to their own homes. The police have since arrested five persons and registered an offence against 58 others based on complaints by the villagers. Apparently, the administration has lodged four FIRs for alleged vandalism and desecration of a religious place. The right-wing groups have also filed two FIRs against Muslims with the claim that they were abused and attacked.
Reports indicate that in some of these rallies, weapons were also carried. In a letter to the Dhar Collector dated 26th Dec, Abdul Samad, one of the leaders of the Dhar Muslim community, has raised the concern of biked right-wing rally members shouting offensive slogans and brandishing lathis, dandas and sharp weapons against Muslims. Samad has demanded legal action against the coordinator, organiser and participants of the rally.
Violence follows anti-conversion laws
This spate of incidents takes place just as Madhya Pradesh added its name to the growing list of states enacting anti-conversion laws. Taking the ‘Ordinance’ route, the Govt of MP enforced the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Bill, 2020 (approved by the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet on 27th December). The Bill prescribes imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh for ‘conversion through marriage or by any other forceful means’ and also makes stricter provisions for ‘mass conversions (of two or more people)’ and ‘religious conversion of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minors’.
The relentless changes in legislation enabling targeting of minority communities, as well as the clear sense of impunity evident through the Ayodhya Verdict, the handling of the Delhi ‘Riots’ (2020) and similar incidents, further endangers an already vulnerable minority population, in particular, women, whose agency is held null and void. It must also be noted that, with an eye on the upcoming local body elections in MP, the state government has been using the incidents of communal hate to cover up its failures and the massive support being received for the farmers struggle in the state.
The recent arrest of stand-up comedian Munawar Farooqui, along with Edwin Anthony, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas and Nalin Yadav, on the charge of ‘hurting religious sentiments’ also needs to be seen in this broader context.