Mobs rampage neighbourhoods in several Indian states during the Hindu festival of Ram Navmi, leaving at least one person dead and mosques and shrines desecrated, local media and witnesses say.

Hindu devotees take part in a religious procession to celebrate Ram Navami festival in Hyderabad, India, Sunday, April 10, 2022.
Hindu devotees take part in a religious procession to celebrate Ram Navami festival in Hyderabad, India, Sunday, April 10, 2022. (AP)

Clashes between Hindus and Muslims during the Hindu festival of Ram Navami have prompted police in India to impose a curfew in several Indian states even as authorities in central Madhya Pradesh state demolished several houses belonging to Muslims, witnesses said and local media reported

At least one person was killed and several houses or shops were set on fire in at least seven Indian states that witnessed violent clashes on Monday.

In Khargone in Madhya Pradesh, the district administration demolished the houses of many Muslims and alleged the residents were involved in stone-pelting a Hindu procession.

Videos on social media showed mobs pelting stones on mosques in several areas and DJs playing loud music outside the mosques. 

"Police came to demolish Jama masjid complex in Talab chowk. They broke down the shutters of the shop but then they left after Muslims confronted them. But they have returned again and began demolishing the complex," local news website Maktoob reported. 

The violence started on Sunday when the Muslim community objected to a DJ playing objectionable music in the procession. This was followed by stone-pelting and arson at many places in the city, in which many people including Khargone's superintendent of police were injured.

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Government targeting Muslims?

However, Madhya Pradesh Congress media chief KK Mishra said that the incident was pre-planned and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was targeting Muslims through it.

"Everything is being done under the supervision of the government. How the government and the authorities determine who were the persons involved in the rioting just within a few hours after the incident and without conducting any inquiry?" he told Anadolu Agency.

"What is the proof that the persons whose houses have been razed were responsible for the violence?"

Clashes also broke out during Ram Navami processions in two towns in the western state of Gujarat –– Himmatnagar and Khambhat –– on Sunday. One person was killed while another was injured in clashes in Khambhat, according to local police.

The body of a 65-year-old man was recovered from the spot after a stone-pelting incident between two communities during the procession on Sunday afternoon, police said.

Another person was injured in the incident while some shops were torched.

In 2002, Gujarat was gripped by deadly, large-scale communal violence for around a month. Rights groups say about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at that time and a rising star in the Hindu nationalist BJP.

In West Bengal, several people were injured in an attack on a Ram Navami procession in Howrah, adjacent to Kolkata and Bankura, bordering the state of Jharkhand.

In Bankura, there was an alleged attack on the car of the BJP lawmaker and Union Minister Subhash Sarkar. Similarly, in Howrah, there was allegedly stone pelting on the procession.

Local police arrested 17 BJP supporters following the incident.

While Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are currently ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP, West Bengal is ruled by the Trinamool Congress, an Indian political party predominantly active in West Bengal.

Violence was also reported in Goa and Jharkhand states. 

In Bihar state, a Hindu mob desecrated a mosque by planting a saffron flag on its gate, local media reported.

'Hate speeches against Muslims'

Asaduddin Owaisi, head of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, said just in the last few days Hindutva mobs with the blessing of police provoked or participated in violence in many places.

"In many places, Ram Navami yatras (procession) were used to make hate speeches against Muslims," he said in a tweet.

Rajeev Yadav of Rihai Manch, a human rights group, blamed far-right Hindu groups for this situation.

"The incidents were well-planned in which the people of Hindu organisations chose those places from where they could provoke violence," Yadav told Anadolu Agency.

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Anti-Muslim violence under Modi's rule

Violence and hate speech against Muslims have increased under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's governing Hindu nationalist party since his coming into office in 2014. 

In recent months, Muslim students have been targeted for wearing Islamic headscarves, right-wing allies have sought a ban on Halal meat, and Muslim fruit vendors have been beaten up, prohibiting them to do business outside the temples. 

Critics of Modi say India has steadily drifted from commitment to secularism by India's founding fathers and today the country is deeply fractured along religious lines.  

They say the attacks could escalate against Muslims, who are disproportionately represented in India's most impoverished neighbourhoods. 

BJP "and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, as well as other Hindu extremist affiliates such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, have been carrying out a vicious campaign of attacks on Muslims, Christians and Dalits in India with impunity," a US-based advocacy organisation of Indian American Muslims said on Monday.

"The Biden Administration has disappointingly failed to address the issue of human rights violations in India and this is the opportunity to right that wrong," Rasheed Ahmed, executive director, Indian American Muslim Council, said in a statement.

"By not speaking up explicitly on India's increasing attacks on minorities and human rights defenders, President Biden is virtually emboldening the Modi administration to escalate such persecution," Nikhil Mandalaparthy, advocacy director, Hindus for Human Rights, said in a statement.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies