Irfan Engineer, Neha Dabhade, Mithila Raut


Maharashtra under the BJP government is taking strident steps towards communalization according to the monthly monitoring of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) for the month of March 2024, based on reports in the Mumbai edition of The Indian Express, The Hindu, The Times of India, Sahafat and Inquilab. The Hindu nationalists intensified communal polarization in Maharashtra. Two communal riots out of the total three riots in the month of March were in Maharashtra, in Shirsoli (Jalgaon) and in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. Hate speeches and hate crimes continued unabated. Out of the six hate crimes, three took place in Maharashtra in March. There was also an instance of arbitrary demolition of some portions of the house belonging to Inquilab khan on the directive of BJP leader and guardian Minister of Mumbai, Prabhat Mangal Lodha. The mapping of Madrassas in Maharashtra is also seen as a policy measure to promote a narrative against Muslims. The trend of renaming the towns that have names associated with Muslims also continued. Latest town to be renamed is being Alibaug to Mayank Nagar, in order to purge these places of “Islamic heritage”. The other parts of India are similarly witnessing hate crimes, hate speeches and laws or policies being implemented which discriminate or exclude marginalized sections due to their religious identity.

Communal Riots[1]:

Two communal riots took place in India in the month of March- one each in Rajasthan and Maharashtra, claiming one life. In Pahuna village in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh district, communal riot took place on 19th March night, when reportedly some Muslim residents objected to noise during a religious procession passing outside the mosque where prayers were underway. Subsequently, after an altercation between the groups, stone pelting ensued and twelve were injured and 55 years old shopkeeper, Shyam Lal Chhipa, died following a heart attack which he suffered during the scuffle. The police deployed additional force and arrested 18 persons to bring the situation under control (The Hindu, 2024). It is to be noted that this religious procession takes place every year but this time the riot took place after the BJP government came into power in Rajasthan a few months back.

Similarly, in Shirsoli in Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, communal riots took place during Shiv Jayanti procession. Stone pelting ensued near the mosque after an altercation injuring six people including one home guard. The police arrested 32 persons to bring the situation under control. Residents claim some of them were innocent and had come to the mosque to offer namaz. The police charged some of the arrested with section 307- attempt to murder although no serious injuries were reported.

In another incident reported from Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar in Maharashtra, a state transport bus was pelted with stones by two groups of Hindus and Muslims, triggered by an altercation between the groups over volume of the loudspeaker on a temple on 13th March. Two cases have been registered against several persons in connection with the incident under Indian Penal Code sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 141, 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 149 and provisions of the Bombay Police Act (Indian Express, 2024).

Hate Speeches:

One of the distressing trends in communal violence in India is the slew of hate speeches being made by influential national leaders enjoying constitutional posts. These hate speeches contribute in demonizing the minorities particularly the Muslims. They deepen stereotypes and falsehoods against the Muslims including that Muslims are “infiltrators”, “rapists”, “jihadis”, “barbarians”, “polygamous” etc.

For instance, the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, arguing for Uniform Civil Code said, “Since the time of the British, the Muslims of this country have been separated from Sharia and many Islamic countries have also kept away from Sharia. Even today, when there is a civil case, Muslims do not go to the ‘Qazi’ (judge according to Sharia law), but to the Court. Do they want to bring and implement Sharia law, where a thief’s hands should be cut off, a rapist should be stoned and a traitor should be hanged at the crossroads, where no Muslim can open a savings account or take a loan. Why Sharia and Hadith are used only for four marriages and talaq? Congress has done vote bank politics in the country” (Sanatan Prabhat, 2024)”. Shah said that Shariah and Hadith should be lived. As seen in his statement, Shah strengthens stereotypes about the Muslim societies and is not factually accurate. Indian Muslims according to the Constitution are not bestowed with the liberty to choose which system of jurisprudence they can seek. Like all other religious communities, they are also governed under their personal law guided by Sharia in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc. Moreover, Indian Muslims like other citizens in the matters of criminal jurisprudence are governed by uniform law where barbaric punishments as described by Shah are not allowed. These example cited by Shah were to malign the Muslim community.

BJP MLA Nitesh Rane in a rally in Mumbai on 3rd March, alluding to Muslims as “Bangladeshi”, infiltrators” and furthering the unsubstantiated claims of “love jihad” said, “If anyone tries to do drama or attack Hindu Samaj. In Hanuman Jayanti, Ram Navmi, we have seen stones being pelted, slippers thrown at these marches. If these things, and more things such as land jihad and love jihad are not stopped then we will see to them. We would also like to see how much ‘bravery’ ‘these people’ show. If anyone tries to throw Hindus out, or reduce the Hindu population, we will see to it.” Responding to allegation of Bangladeshis being sheltered, “Action will be taken. This is only a trailer (Sabrangindia, 2024).

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma laid down certain conditions for the migrant Bangladesh-origin Bengali-speaking Muslims of the state who he pejoratively calls “miya”, if they want to be recognized as indigenous people of the state. “To be called indigenous, they should stop having more than two children and practising polygamy as it is not the culture of Assamese people. If they want to become indigenous, they cannot marry off their minor daughters. Instead of sending your children to madrassas, educate them to become doctors and engineers if you want to be called indigenous. These are the differences between them and the indigenous people of the state. If they can give up these practices and imbibe the culture of Assamese people, at some point of time they, too, can become indigenous (Kalita, 2024).

The assertion made by Sarma suggests a portrayal of the Muslim community as predominantly polygamous, educationally disadvantaged, and discriminatory towards Muslim women. It is important to note that not all Muslim children exclusively attend Madrassas for education, and individuals from the Muslim community also pursue careers in various fields such as medicine and engineering. Similarly, it is worth highlighting that individuals from non-Muslim communities also pursue a diverse range of professions beyond medicine and engineering. Furthermore, it is crucial to recognize that the Constitution of India upholds the freedom for individuals of all religious backgrounds, including Muslims, to seek religious education if they choose to do so. By insinuating that Muslims are not “sons of the soil”, Sarma is branding them as outsiders.

Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje and BJP leader was criticized for her statement alleging that people from Tamil Nadu placed a bomb in a Bengaluru cafe. Speaking in Bengaluru, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare said, “People from Tamil Nadu come here, get trained there and plant bombs here. They placed a bomb in the cafe. She was hinting at the Muslim community as the accused in the case are Muslims. However, it shouldn’t be generalized as she has in her statements that all Muslims and all people from Tamil Nadu indulge in criminal activities like placing bombs. She drew flak for making irresponsible statement while the case is being investigated by NIA (Times of India, 2024).

The BJP candidate from Krishnanagar in West Bengal, Amrita Roy while besmirching the image of nawabs and insinuating that the Muslim nawabs were a threat to Hindu religion said, “since we are descendants of Maharaja Krishna Chandra Roy and since the family had supported the British against Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah in the battle of Plassey, the opposition has called us ‘gaddar’ (traitor). The (royal) family distributed land to the people and helped them, but this is not being said anywhere. Maharaja Krishna Chandra helped the British to save our Sanatan (Hindu) religion, otherwise it would have been destroyed. Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah was a tyrant and was corrupt. The Maharaja didn’t do it alone. He had the support of Jagat Seth and other rajas. If this was not done, our language, our attire, everything would be different, and we would have been under the control of others”. Ironically, this speech was made in the presence of PM Modi who supported Amrita Roy’s statement (Roy, 2024).

Hate Crimes:

In a video that went viral on 24th March, showed a group of people in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, celebrating Holi and harassing a Muslim man and two women. The video showed a group of people forcefully splashing water and putting colour on a Muslim man and two women on a bike. In this video, the motorbike is forced to stop, and the people in the group soaked the man and women despite their visible discomfort and protests. One of the men then smears dark colour across the man’s face while others cheer, wishing them ‘Happy Holi’. The police arrested one person and detained three minors in connection of the video (News 18, 2024).

In another instance of hate crime, in a bid to assert hegemony, the word “Ram” was found written on a back wall of Markaj mosque in Majalgaon town of central Maharashtra’s Beed district during Holi festivities on March 24. The inscription on the mosque wall was spotted at around 5 pm the next day. The word was written using Holi colours and toy water gun (pichkari). Members of the Muslim community lodged a complaint in Majalgaon police. The police registered a case against an unidentified person (under IPC sections 295A and 120B) for deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings and criminal conspiracy.

In yet another hate crime against Muslims, in Kalwa locality of Mumbai, a group of miscreants celebrating Holi forced a young rickshaw driver to break his Ramadan fast as they threw colours and water on his him on 25th March. Khan Mohammed Kadir, the driver, had picked up a female passenger from Kalwa and was on his way to Kharegaon. While passing through the Kharegaon naka area, four to five unidentified men stopped his auto and forcibly smeared colours on him. Although Kadir pleaded with them that he was fasting, they did not heed his pleas. The group of miscreants also broke windshield of Kadir’s auto. The frightened woman passenger pleaded with the group to let them go (The Siasat Daily, 2024).

In another incident again from Maharashtra, in Akola district, one 15 years old Muslim student, committed suicide on March 13th after his school teachers beat him up. Family members accused school teachers and Principal of mentally torturing the boy, a student of Class 9 at Guru Nanak Vidyalaya in Sindhi Camp area, because of his Muslim identity. Imran Afsar Baig, father of the victim, filed a complaint against three teachers – Meera Ahuja, Sailesh and Geeta with Akola SP. One of the family members explained that the boy suffered mental torture for a couple of years and went into depression after getting beaten up by the school principle over a petty issue. The victim had requested his family to change his school due to this continuous harassment but the family hadn’t heeded his request (Sabrangindia, 2024).

In an incident from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, on 16th March, students hailing from different foreign countries were assaulted for offering namaz in the Gujarat University hostel compound during the holy month of Ramzan. Three students – one from Sri Lanka, one from Afghanistan and another from Turkmenistan – were admitted to SVP Hospital after the incident that took place at the A-block hostel. Even as multiple videos purportedly of the assault were shared on social media triggering widespread outrage the government swung into damage control action. Police arrested two persons in connection with the FIR lodged in Gujarat University police against a mob under IPC sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 149 (being part of unlawful assembly and sharing common object), 323 (causing hurt), 324 (causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means), 337 (hurting by rash and negligent act as to endanger others’ lives) and 447 (criminal trespass) among other charges (Times of India, 2024). Eventually, the foreign students were asked to leave the campus.

In another incident, a sub-inspector, Manoj Tomar was seen in a video kicking and hitting members of a congregation who were performing namaz in north Delhi’s Inderlok locality on 8th March. Tiwari was suspended after this incident. A purported video of the incident was widely shared on social media, sparking outrage. The video shows a group of people performing namaz on a busy road. Tomar is seen pushing them and asking them to move, then kicking and hitting two-three people. The person recording the video can be heard saying they were in “sajda” – a position of prostration – when the officer kicked them (Times of India, 2024).

Structural Violence:

The month of March witnessed discrimination and violence against the Muslims in different forms including custodial death, economic boycott against Muslims and arbitrary demolition of house owned by a Muslim- resulting from actions and policies of the state.

Arbitrary demolition:

In one of the shocking incidents of arbitrary state action triggered by a trivial issue, in Saki Naka area of Mumbai, two neighbours got into a scuffle over parking space. As the tensions escalated, Iqbal Khan (50) allegedly stabbed his neighbours, Rajesh Chettiyar (28), Tangaraj Chettiyar (58) and Laxmi Chettiyar (52) along with Siddesh Prakhash Godpade (23). When the affected families visited Prabhat Mangal Lodha, the Guardian Minister of Mumbai, he directed the BMC to demolish some parts of the house owned by Iqbal Khan alleging that they are illegal. However, in a statement he said, “After reviewing the incident that took place in Saki Naka, we realised that the Malvani pattern of harassing and torturing Hindus is going on here too. Hence appropriate action was taken. Injustice is being done to the sons of the soil here, which will not be tolerated anymore (Ganapatye, 2024)”. It is clear that the due procedure was not followed in demolishing part of the five-storey building which the BMC demolished only because Mr. Lodha who is also the guardian minister of Mumbai ordered it. And it is a gross transgression of law where a guardian minister orders such a demolition without following due procedure including serving notice to the affected or giving them a fair opportunity to explain or defend the allegations of illegality.

Economic Boycott against Muslims in Uttarakhand:

After the calls of economic boycott against Muslims forced Muslim traders to flee Purola in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district, a similar situation arose in the Kumaon hills. In Uttarakhand, at least 86 Muslim traders were asked to leave Dharchula town of Pithoragarh district by the local traders’ association after a Muslim barber was arrested for allegedly abducting two Hindu minor girls and taking them to his UP hometown in February. A traders’ body in Uttarakhand’s Dharchula town has cancelled the registration of 91 shops run mostly by Muslims.  Locals have been asked not to rent houses and shops to “outsiders” creating tensions in the area. The district administration claimed action is being taken against those issuing the boycott call and shopkeepers complaining of harassment are being given protection (Times of India, 2024).

Citizenship Amendment Act:

In March 2024, the Union government notified rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Against this backdrop, the Supreme Court issued notice to Union government on 20-odd applications seeking stay of implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act and the Rules. There have been protests of citizens against the CAA law in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. At the same time, the arbitrary nature of the rules is underscored by the latest Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ CAA helpline response to a query by the Hindu Newspaper, that a local priest may issue an “eligibility certificate” under the CAA, 2019 to validate the religion of an applicant. The certificate, a mandatory document, is to be enclosed along with an affidavit and other documents that the applicants are to upload on the CAA portal (Singh, 2024).

BJP leader Tathagata Roy and Junior Union shipping minister Shantanu Thakur claimed that circumcision is part of the rules notified about the CAA law to ascertain the religious identity of the person seeking citizenship. The statement about this absurd “test” which is obviously not part of the rules was to seemingly target the Muslims (Times of India, 2024).

Punishment under the Anti-Conversion Law in Madhya Pradesh:

A husband and wife, Ramesh Masih, 40, and Sakhi, 40, were sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment and fined them INR 25,000 each for attempted conversion by a court in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar. It was alleged that the couple had enticed a young man with a job and INR 20,000 monthly salary if he converted to Christianity. The couple was relatives of complainant’s wife, and was even pressuring her to divorce him for refusing to convert according to the police. The Court invoked Section 3 and Section 5 of MP Religious Freedom Act 2021 and convicted the couple. It might be one of the first where maximum punishment and fine were imposed in an attempted conversion case. If the couple doesn’t pay the fines, they will be jailed for six more months (Times of India, 2024)

Custodial Death:

Mukhtar Ansari died on 28th March allegedly after he suffered a cardiac arrest in Banda prison in Uttar Pradesh. Convicted in eight cases in the last two years, 63-year-old Ansari was lodged in Banda jail. A five-time MLA from Mau constituency in eastern UP, he was a history-sheeter with a total of 65 cases against him in different police stations of UP and Delhi. The circumstances around his death are disputed by his family. They suspect that Ansari’s death was not a natural death and that he was given a “poisonous substance” in jail (BBC , 2024). This development is distressing in the backdrop of the encounters carried out by UP police and the notoriety it has attracted for extra-judicial killings.

Uttarakhand Public and Private property Damage Recovery Ordinance:

Uttarakhand governor granted approval to Uttarakhand Public and Private Property Damage Recovery Ordinance making it a law. Uttarakhand is the third state after UP and Haryana to implement such law. In UP, the law was used to target Muslims asking innocent Muslims to pay damages after communal riots. Under this law, rioters will be held accountable for their actions and face monetary consequences for damages. The state has approved the establishment of a dedicated claims tribunal to handle cases related to riots promptly. An officer of ADM rank has been appointed as the claims commissioner, with the tribunal comprising members beyond retired judges. The ordinance was prompted by the Banphoolpura riots on Feb 8, which resulted in five fatalities and over a hundred injuries to police personnel, district officials and journalists among others (Times of India, 2024).

Mapping of Madrassas in Maharashtra:

As part of the Union Ministry initiative to “modernize” madrassas, the Mumbai Suburban Collector issued notices to school teachers directing them to conduct geo-mapping surveys of madrassas in the city of Mumbai. This is part of the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs initiative under which a study is undertaken to assess the status and educational requirements of recognised and unrecognised madrassas. The geo-tagging and mapping of madrassas are integral components of this initiative. However, the teachers expressed their dissatisfaction with this direction as it clashed with the HSC and SSC exams which is related to their academic duties. Some of the Muslim leaders have criticized the government move by citing that the Muslims were not consulted or taken into confidence while mapping which coincided with the holy month of Ramadan (Indian Express, 2024).  The mapping of the Madrassas as a policy decision emerges from the stereotype that Madrassas are “dens of terrorists as alleged by some leaders and thus need to be monitored. However, only the madrassas are places are monitored and not other religious places of instructions.

Renaming Historic places:

Continuing its steak of renaming places named after Muslim kings, the Maharashtra cabinet decided to rename Ahmednagar as Ahilyanagar after Ahilyabai Holkar. Since July 2023, the state has renamed three cities— Aurangabad as Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, Osmanabad as Dharashiv and Ahmednagar as Ahilyanagar.

Reclaiming Heritage:

The alarming trend of different heritage structures dating centuries back and built by rulers of all faiths are being targeted by right wing organizations to “reclaim” them by alleging that these mosques or dargahs were formerly Hindu places of worship significant to Hindu mythology. In March, the old controversy of Bhojshala temple was again revisited.

The Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has instructed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to undertake a scientific survey of the Bhojshala Temple-Kamal Maula Mosque complex in Dhar district. This survey aims to clarify the nature of the complex. Despite some objections, the Supreme Court has declined to halt the ASI’s survey in the disputed Bhojshala and Kamal Maula Masjid sites. However, it has stipulated that no actions should be taken without its approval based on the survey’s findings. Additionally, the Supreme Court has emphasized that no physical excavations should occur in these disputed sites that could alter their character (Mishra, 2024).

In other incident in Mumbai, Maharashtra, advocate Khush Khandelwal, founder of the Hindu Task Force, filed a PIL alleging massive illegal constructions on land measuring more than 70,000 square feet by the Balleshah Pir Dargah Trust. Khandelwal alleges that the dargah is an encroachment on protected mangrove belt on government land near the sensitive Chowk jetty in Uttan near Bhayandar. Khandelwal had registered written complaints to the district collector, local civic administration and upper tehsildar against the illegalities in November, 2023. However, no action was taken, prompting Khandelwal to file the PIL. Following Khandelwal’s objections, the upper tehsildar had rejected an application filed by the trust seeking regularisation of the shrine and to enter the trust’s name on the 7/12 property extract. There are also allegations that the dargah is frequented by “anti-national” elements. However, rubbishing these allegations, the trustee of the dargah clarified that the dargah is more than two centuries old, ever since the saint Sayyed Balleshah Pir came and stayed there (Golani, 2024).

Government Spending on Hindu Heritage:

In March too after the month of January, it was observed that different Hindu temples are being beautified at a massive cost under the pretext of pilgrimage or tourism.

11th century Shiv temple at Ambernath, Mumbai in Maharashtra, is being restored and beautified at a cost of around INR 150 crore. The bhoomi pujan was performed by Govindgiri Maharaj, treasurer of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Sansthan in Ayodhya during the Shiv Mandir Art Festival organised by Kalyan Lok Sabha MP Shrikant Shinde. Black stones will be used to beautify the entire temple premises, an exhibition centre, a stadium, amphitheatre, dharamshala for devotees and the ghat on the river bank. Shrikant said the temple restoration will be on the lines of Amarnath pilgrimage and Kashi and Ujjain corridor to woo devotees and tourists from all over the world (Times of India, 2024).

Maharashtra government allocated INR 280 crores for development of Mumbadevi and Mahalakshmi temple complexes, and INR 35 crores for Jagannath Shankarsheth memorial in city. The Chief Minister directed BMC to provide INR 60 crores for the development of Mahalakshmi premises. It was decided that INR 220 crores should be provided for beautification of Mumbadevi temple, INR 35 crores for Shankarsheth memorial in Wadala, and INR 20 crores for Bhagoji Sheth Kir memorial (Times of India, 2024).

Similarly in Bihar, after the Ram temple in Ayodhya, plans are afoot to make a “grand temple” for Sita in Sitamarhi district in north Bihar, considered to be her place of birth. The Bihar government has decided, in principle, to acquire 50 acres around an existing temple in Sitamarhi to construct a new temple (Sinha, 2024).

In another insidious form of undermining culture associated with religions other than Hindu religion, the Manipur government had notified the weekend of Easter as working days for government offices. This is significant and insensitive considering that Manipur has a sizeable number of Kukis and Nagas who are Christians. The ongoing conflict in Manipur is between Meiteis and Kukis- who are Christians where both temples and churches were vandalized and attacked in the conflict. After backlash from other states and Christians, the government had to roll back the decision and only have the Saturday as working day and not Easter Sunday (Indian Express, 2024).


BBC . (2024, March 29). Retrieved from BBC :

Ganapatye, M. (2024, March 19). News India. Retrieved from News 18:

Golani, S. (2024, March 4). Free Press Journal. Retrieved from Free Press Journal:

Indian Express. (2024, March 29). Retrieved from Indian Express:

Indian Express. (2024, April 3). Retrieved from Indian Express:

Indian Express. (2024, March 13). Retrieved from Indian Express:

Kalita, P. (2024, March 24). Times of India. Retrieved from Times of India:

Mishra, I. (2024, March 11). The Hindu. Retrieved May 27, 2024, from The Hindu:

News 18. (2024, March 24). Retrieved from News 18:

Roy, P. (2024, March 28). City. Retrieved from Times of India:

Sabrangindia. (2024, March 4). Retrieved from Sabrangindia:

Sabrangindia. (2024, March 13). Retrieved from Sabrangindia:

Sanatan Prabhat. (2024, March 23). Retrieved from Sanatan Prabhat:

Singh, V. (2024, March 27). India. Retrieved from The Hindu:

Sinha, A. (2024, March 19). Indian Express. Retrieved from Indian Express:

The Hindu. (2024, March 21). Retrieved from The Hindu:

The Siasat Daily. (2024, March 26). Retrieved from The Siasat Daily:

Times of India. (2024, March 18). Retrieved from Times of India:

Times of India. (2024, March 9). Retrieved May 27, 2024, from Times of India:

Times of India. (2024, March 4). Retrieved May 27, 2024, from Times of India:

Times of India. (2024, March 14). Retrieved May 27, 2024, from Times of India:

Times of India. (2024, March 21). Retrieved from Times of India :

Times of India. (2024, March 20). Retrieved from Times of India:

Times of India. (2024, March 19). Retrieved from Times of India:

Times of India. (2024, March 15). Retrieved from Times of India:

Times of India. (2024, March 16). Retrieved from Times of India:


[1] The United Christian Forum (UCF), a Delhi-based civil society organisation has claimed in a press release that the first 2.5 months of 2024, ahead of the general elections, have witnessed 161 incidents of violence against Christians- January witnessed 70 incidents of violence against Christians followed by 62 incidents in 29 days of February and 29 incidents in 15 days of March, 2024.

Make a donation to support us


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *