New Delhi: After Delhi Police denied permission to hold a Ram Navami procession in northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area – which had witnessed communal violence last April – as many as 1,000 people clad in saffron walked with religious flags and raised slogans for about half a kilometre on March 30.
In Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat, incidents of stone pelting and arson were reported to have triggered communal tension around the Ram Navami celebrations.
Both members of public and police personnel were said to have been injured in the incidents, leading police to make arrests in at least one case.
As per newspaper reports, the Deputy Commissioner Of Police (Northwest) had denied permission to a right wing outfit, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Yuva Morcha (ABHYM) for a Ram Navami event to be held at a local park. Other Hindutva groups like Bajrang Dal and Hindu Sena were to be present at the event. Police had denied permission to hold Friday Ramzan prayers at the park too, citing law and order issues in the communally charged area.
However, violating the prohibitory orders, men in saffron and yellow took out a procession from the park in the K block area of Jahangirpuri to its B block, before police eventually put a stop to it.
“Senior police officers said they asked the men to celebrate at the park but they demanded to walk 4-5 km in the area with flags,” reported The Indian Express. The report quoted DCP Jitendra Meena as having said, “We couldn’t allow them to do so. They were allowed to walk on a 100-metre stretch, which they did. As of now, we have not arrested anyone or lodged a case.”
He also said, “There was no violence. It was a peaceful celebration for both communities,” adding, “Keeping in mind law and order situation, the order against Ramzan prayers still stands. If they do show up, we will make security arrangements accordingly. However, nobody has pushed for the prayers.”
The news report said the men in saffron and yellow, prior to taking out the procession, gathered at the park to protest against the police order, placed idols at the park and carried out a puja after setting up a stage there. “Organsiers also set up loudspeakers and a makeshift temple.”
VIDEO | "An organisation sought permission for a 4-5 km long Shobha Yatra (in Delhi's Jahangirpuri on Ram Navami), which was denied. Later, they accepted the permission to restrict the procession within 100 metres," says Jitendra Kumar Meena, DCP NW District, Delhi Police. pic.twitter.com/43ooOA8ho8
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) March 30, 2023
After the puja, the organisers took out a rally in which participants raised slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Jai Siya Ram’, ‘Hanuman Ki Jai’ and ‘Dilli Police sharam karo (Delhi Police have shame).’ ABHYM president Shivom Mishra told the newspaper, “Why do we need permission from police? It is a free country”.
The organisers said that they had planned a gathering of 7000 people for the occasion but expressed disappointment that only 3,000 could come “due to the heavy barricading”.
Maulana Abdul Kalam, a senior clergy at the Jahangirpuri mosque said, “We also wish to hold prayers (at the park) but they (police) didn’t allow us. Rules are only for minorities.”
Meanwhile, two incidents of Ram Navami-related violence were reported from Maharashtra. As per a report in The Hindu, “A riot-like situation prevailed in Sambhajinagar city (formerly Aurangabad) of Maharashtra in the wee hours of March 30 following clashes between two groups, with a number of police vehicles torched during the incident.”
The report said the incident took place at Kiradpura locality of the city on the occasion of Ram Navami and ahead of the opposition Maha Vikas Agadhi’s rally on April 2.
“According to police, the clashes between the groups happened between 12.20 am and 1 am on March 30 when a group of bikers, passing through the Kiradpura area, raised slogans that reportedly provoked the other group. Heated arguments soon snowballed into full-blown violence, with stone pelting and vandalism in tow,” said the news report.
As per police, the arson continued for about three hours. As many as 15 vehicles, including private owned ones, were set on fire. Police thereafter resorted to baton charging and tear gas to bring the situation under control.
Since the opposition rally was set for April 2, there ensued a war of words between the opposition Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party and the ruling Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The opposition has accused the ruling BJP and Shinde faction of Shiv Sena to have fomented communal tensions to get their rally cancelled.
Calling the Aurangabad clash a failure of the Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told media, “This government has only one intention, that is to create disturbance in the state and to ensure that riots take place, adding, “that Fadnavis’ home ministry appeared “invisible” all throughout the incident.
Elsewhere in Maharashtra, pre-Ram Navami related violence was reported from Jalgaon. News reports said a clash ensued between two groups after a religious procession accompanied by loud music was taken out in front of a mosque in Paldhi area of Jalgaon. “The police have registered two FIRs and arrested 45 people so far for the violence that broke out on March 28,” said The Hindustan Times. The report quoted Jalgaon superintendent of police M. Rajkumar as having said that four persons were injured in the violence. He called the present situation peaceful and “under control”.
In Mathura, on Thursday, a viral video of men waving saffron flags from roofs near the Jama Masjid during a Ram Navami procession led to communal tension, reported Indian Express.
The procession was stopped for 30 minutes and concluded amidst police presence.
Mathura SSP Shailesh Pandey said that police are in the process of verifying details and that the situation is peaceful.
Hindu extremists with Bhagwa flag climbed the wall of the mosque outside Jama Masjid in Mathura as part of Ram Navami celebrations. pic.twitter.com/pvLTbShSVT
— Ahmed Khabeer احمد خبیر (@AhmedKhabeer_) March 30, 2023
Meanwhile, a Ram Navami-related incident of violence was reported from West Bengal’s Howrah area. As per a Times of India report, several vehicles were set on fire after two groups clashed in Howrah amid the celebrations. As per the state chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the Ram Navami procession organisers took a route which was not authorised by the police, leading her to state, “They have been hiring goons from outside the state to orchestrate communal riots. Nobody has stopped their processions but they do not have the right to march with swords and bulldozers. How did they get the audacity to do this in Howrah?”
Issuing orders to police to take strict action against the perpetrators of the clash, she told media, “Those who have not done any wrong will not be arrested.” Meanwhile, the BJP has accused Banerjee of the violence.
State BJP leaders and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh members took out processions on Ram Navami in different parts of the state. The Times of India report said it counted to “about 1,000 small and large rallies across the state.”
“Drumbeats, saffron flags and large cutouts of Lord Ram featured prominently in these processions. Some of those participating in the procession were allegedly carrying swords and trishuls,” the report said.
An incident of stone pelting during the Ram Navami celebrations was reported from Gujarat’s Vadodara city too. “While some vehicles got damaged, no one was injured in the incident and the procession passed along its planned route under police protection,” deputy commissioner of police Yashpal Jaganiya told the Times of India.