Lord Ram and other Hindu symbols were manipulated and misused by Hindu right wing political outfits to spread violence and assert domination over Muslims in the month of January, 2024. According to the monthly monitoring of communal violence conducted by Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, four out of the five communal riots that took place in the month of January were directly related to the Pran Pratisthan in Ayodhya. Out of these four communal riots, two were reported in Mumbai and Nagpur, Maharashtra, one in Vadodara in Gujarat and lastly in Madhya Pradesh- all in BJP ruled states. It is important to mention here that in 2022 and 2023, 28 communal riots took place around India, directly related to Ram Navami processions.

The role of hate speeches is significant in fomenting communal tensions and riots. Seven instances of hate speeches were reported in the media in the month of January. These hate speeches broadly called for demolition of mosques, made baseless allegations of love jihad inciting hatred against Muslims, boycott of halal certification meat, use of bulldozers against Muslims and called for stricter action against Muslims after communal riots in Mira Road. The hate speeches were made by BJP leaders, MLA T Raja and MLA Nitesh Rane in Solapur and Mumbai in Maharashtra, MLA Geeta Jain in Mumbai and Anantkumar Hegde, BJP Member of Parliament and BJP leader KS Eshwarappa from Karnataka. The hate speeches deepened prejudices against the Muslims.

Communal riots coinciding with Pran Pratisthan were used as a pretext to invite demolitions of properties belonging to Muslims. Mundane day to day altercations were given a communal turn and deliberately projected as major incidents warranting and inviting “collective punishment” for the Muslims. For instance, the communal tension in Mira Road, Mumbai was very minor, mainly fueled by political ambitions of the local leaders trying to project these tensions as big communal riots and inviting demolition. Similarly, in Panvel, Mumbai, there was report of sloganeering on 22nd January but there were demands of demolitions of properties of Muslims in Panvel.

The public discourse in India in the month of January was largely dominated by the carefully constructed narrative around the Ayodhya Pran Pratistan which marked a steady religionization of Indian socio-political landscape promoted by state. The consecration of Lord Ram in the Ayodhya temple on 22nd January saw unprecedented promotion of a religious event by the state. For instance, ten BJP ruled states- Maharashtra, Gujarat, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Tripura in addition to AAP ruled Delhi, declared a complete holiday or half day holiday to celebrate the Pran Pratisthan. This implied that schools, colleges and government offices amongst other state establishments remained closed on that day. Some of these state governments also prohibited sale of non-vegetarian food items, meat and alcohol on that day.

Additionally, it’s noteworthy that the state continued to spend public funds on the promotion of heritage associated with Hindu gods and symbols to the exclusion of heritage associated with other religions. Some of the examples include the curating of a wax museum in Ayodhya on the theme of Ramayana, Chhattisgarh’s ‘Shri Ramlala Darshan (Ayodhya Dham)’ scheme and Odisha’s Parikrama project in Puri. This trend coincides with another alarming trend of reclaiming places of worship of the Muslim community. In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has vowed to “liberate” Haji Malang Dargah. Similarly, after the Varanasi district Court order allowing puja inside the Gyanvapi mosque, within hours- 3am the following morning, the puja was performed in the “Vyas Tehkana”. It appears that the puja was conducted in a haste since the Gyanvapi masjid committee has moved the Allahabad high court challenging the Varanasi district court’s order allowing the Hindu side to perform puja in ‘Vyas Tehkana’ or the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi structure. Thus, though puja was performed within hours when one week’s window was given to do the same to pre-empt any remedy the mosque committee could get from the High Court.

Emboldened by such actions endorsed by state, there is an evident rise of vigilante acts of Hindu right wing In Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur district for allegedly removing a flag from a mosque and replacing it with a saffron on 23rd January. Three men climbed on top of a mosque and removed the green flag there. They replaced it with a saffron flag with Jai Shri Ram written on it. They were arrested. In a similar incident, eleven miscreants hoisted saffron flags atop a mosque in the Tajganj area of Agra district during a shobha yatra on 22nd January. Agra police arrested them. A video of the incident was shot and made viral.

Additionally, demolitions continued to represent a weapon of hegemony to intimidate the Muslim community by using the trope of illegal encroachments. There were also reports of moral policing and violence against inter-faith couples, furthering the unsubstantiated claims of “love jihad”.


Communal Riots:

Two communal riots out of these four took place in Maharashtra- one in Mira Road, Mumbai and the other in Nagpur. Communal violence took place in Mumbai’s Mira Road on 21st night when some participants of a procession carrying saffron “Jai Shri Ram” flags were attacked by some Muslim youth in Mira Road. There were reports that the vehicles carrying the saffron flags collided with a by stander which led to the altercation.  A scuffle ensued but was brought under control by the police. The next day, on 22nd January, there were reports of some tensions and sloganeering but no major incident of violence was reported. However, on 23rd January, after the hate speech of BJP leader Nitesh Rane, a mob attacked properties and vehicles belonging to Muslims in Mira Bhayander locality. The Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation used bulldozers on 23rd January to demolish about 15 structures in the Muslim-dominated Haidary Chowk area in Mira Road. Nine persons were injured in this violence.

In Garib Nawaz nagar of Nagpur, altercation between members of two communities took place on 22nd January, 2024. The altercation broke out during a program organized by an organization to celebrate the consecration of the Ram Lalla idol in Ayodhya. Scuffle between two groups ensued and was followed by stone pelting. 12 persons were injured.

Another communal riot took place on 8th January when participants of a religious procession were allegedly pelted with stones in Shajapur of Madhya Pradesh. One person was injured in the incident. During the procession, which started at 7.30 pm on 8th January, youths associated with Hindu organizations distributed yellow rice for the consecration ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. At around 8.30 pm, around seven-eight persons stopped them and told them not to take out the procession in the area. This argument then grew into a physical confrontation, when some of the participants were allegedly manhandled and stones were pelted at them.

Communal riot took place in Bhoj in Vadodara district, Gujarat on 22nd January after stones were allegedly pelted on a procession, Shobha Yatra, to celebrate the idol consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. A combing operation was launched to arrest two to three suspects who pelted stones. One person was injured.

State Spending on Religious symbols:

  1. In Ayodhya, the Ayodhya Municipal Corporation, allotted 2.5 acres for setting up “Ramayana Wax Museum” in a 7-crore project floated by the government. With about 100 life-size wax statues of Rama, Sita, Hanuman and all the other important characters from Ramayana, the first phase will depict 30-35 scenes from Ram Katha, including Sita’s Swayamvar, Vanvaas and Lanka Dahan
  2. In Chhattisgarh, the cabinet announced in January that it will roll out ‘Shri Ramlala Darshan (Ayodhya Dham)’ scheme, under which 20,000 people from the state will be taken to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh every year, free of cost, for a visit to the newly constructed Ram Temple
  3. Odisha government, was set to inaugurate an ambitious temple project of its own — a Rs 800-crore heritage corridor around Puri’s renowned Jagannath Temple, aimed at improving infrastructure for visiting devotees. The Parikrama project includes a 75-metre corridor surrounding the Jagannath temple complex, which, according to the project’s website, will provide pilgrims with a “visual connect” with the temple. The Odisha government has planned to mobilize around 10,000 people daily for a month to visit the Shree Mandira Parikrama Project.

Hate Speeches:

  1. Karnataka MP Anantkumar Hegde called for mosques allegedly built on temples to be demolished. He said, “Until they are demolished, the Hindu community will not sit idly. Revenge, revenge, revenge… if we do not take revenge for the 1,000 years, then the Hindu community can clearly say that ours is not Hindu blood. We are not a community which will be in debt. We will clear the debt at any cost.”
  2. A video that went viral stated that “arms had been delivered” in the Cheetah Camp area in Mumbai and there would be violence asking people to stay indoors.
  3. BJP MLA Nitesh Rane openly threatened the Muslim community in Mira Road and the police during the press conference. He used offensive language to address the Muslim community, made provocative statements, and urged the Hindu community to “unite and retaliate”
  4. BJP leader KS Eshwarappa threated Muslims by saying, “For those areas where mosques have been constructed, it would be advantageous if you (Muslims) voluntarily vacate. Otherwise, the repercussions, including how many will be killed and what all would happen, we don’t know.
  5. The Telangana MLA T Raja in Solapur said: “The way [Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister] Yogi Adityanath runs bulldozers on love jihadis, the Maharashtra government should also buy and keep some bulldozers. They must gift them to MLAs and MPs and tell them to use them, we’ll see who will do ‘gau hatya’ [cow slaughter] then.” Singh also reportedly called for demolishing mosques that were allegedly built upon sites where temples once stood.
  6. BJP MLA Nitesh Rane in Solapur made references to “jihadis” and the demolition of mosques.
  7. MLA Geeta Jain in Mira Road threatening to attack Muslims said, “We are greater in numbers, if they need 10-15 minutes, we only need 5 minutes which will be good enough for them.”
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