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Ram Navami 2023 Clashes In Jharkhand: Communal Violence On The Rise

This year, three key incidents of communal unrest took place across Jharkhand: In Sahibganj, Hazaribagh and East Singbhum. But violence in Ram Navami seems to be becoming a trend in Jharkhand in recent years.

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Ram Navami celebration (Representative image)
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The purportedly peaceful festival of Ram Navami which celebrates the birth of the Hindu deity seems to have become a flashpoint for communal violence across the nation with clashes taking place in six states. In Jharkhand, incidents of violence during Ram Navami processions were reported from at least three districts amid concerns over the increasing weaponisation of religious festivals. 

This is not the first time that the state has seen violence on Ram Navami. According to Census 2011 data, 68 per cent of Jharkhand’s population is Hindu and 14.5 per cent Muslim. As per a report by FactChecker, there have been 14 hate crimes in Jharkhand in the last decade that were motivated by religion and nine of them led to deaths. Two of the hate crimes that FactCheker investigated took place on Ram Navami while five others were motivated by events of the festival. 

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This year, three key incidents of communal unrest took place across Jharkhand: In Sahibganj, Hazaribagh, and East Singbhum.

Hanuman idol vandalised in Sahibganj

In Sahibganj district, Internet services were suspended on April 3 after a Hanuman idol was allegedly vandalised near the Patel Chowk police station of the city. Currently, the situation is under control amid heavy police deployment in the area. 

Speaking to Outlook Sahibganj SP Anuranjan Kispotta said, “This is not a major flare-up. Things are under control. There was an attempt to vandalise a three-feet tall Hanuman statue near Patel Chowk. The culprit was identified and arrested based on CCTV footage, and the idol has been restored. We have suspended the internet in the district as a precautionary measure. Now we are verifying if the culprit is mentally fit or not, because from the footage it does not appear that he damaged the statue on purpose.”

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Sahibganj also witnessed violence on Apr 1 during the procession. In the Kihripara area of the city, two communities clashed during idol immersion, with stone-pelting from both sides damaging many vehicles and shops. Kispotta states: “There was sloganeering from both communities first and then stone-pelting. The police have filed FIRs against 25-30 people, featuring accused persons from both communities. We will take appropriate action after investigations.” When asked about arrests, he said he did not know how many accused had been arrested so far. 

Mosque vandalised in Hazaribagh

The second incident is linked to the Indrapuri mosque in Hazaribagh town. A video that ostensibly shows the mosque being vandalised has gone viral, in which people from the Ram Navami procession can be seen breaking down the mosque’s gate. Speaking to Outlook, the mosque committee president Zafarullah Sadiq said, “The video that you have in your possession does feature our Indrapuri mosque. It was around 4.45 am on Apr. 1. There were around 300 people in the Ramnavmi procession. They raised slogans and broke the gate and glasses of the mosque. There was stone pelting. This happened in the presence of 9 magistrate-level officers. We have filed a police complaint. However, the authorities have filed an FIR against 15 people who were identified, along with 200 ‘unknown persons’.”

Hazaribagh SP Manoj Ratan Chothe told Outlook that “I have not seen the viral video but there was an incident at the mosque. People created a ruckus next to it. An FIR has been registered in this regard. The information about how many people figure in the FIR will be notified later. Raids are being conducted to make arrests.” 

The president of the Hazaribagh Ramnavmi Mahasamiti (organizing committee) Kunal Yadav condemned the incident, saying “See, some of the akharas of the procession take this route, but there had never been an altercation earlier. This was a first. We have told the administration to punish those found guilty. There were some anti-social elements in the procession who carried out this mischief, to vitiate the atmosphere. I believe that nobody’s religious sentiments should be hurt.”

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Stone pelting between communities in East Singbhum

The third incident pertains to the Haldipokhar village of the Potka block in the East Singhbhum district, about 30 kilometres from district headquarters in Jamshedpur. District SSP Prabhat Kumar explained: “The procession passed next to a mosque which was not on the official route sanctioned by the administration. The police and a part of the procession were trying to prevent people from taking the mosque route, but another group diverted the procession by force and indulged in (provocative) sloganeering. This led to a counter-protest from the mosque side, and some stones were pelted. Then, stone-pelting began from both sides. The police have now brought the situation under control.” He did not have information about how many people have been named in the FIR, but two arrests have been made so far. 

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The police said that the incident has been resolved, and peace was restored after holding a meeting with both sides.

The former president of the mosque (committee) that was at the centre of the incident, Jikrul Hoda, who is also a member of the Haldipokhar peace committee, said that “Stones were pelted from both sides, but it began when the procession raised incendiary slogans that were chanted repeatedly. The CEO and the DSP tried to convince the mob to not raise this slogan, but they refused to obey them.” SSP Prabhat Kumar confirmed that communal slogans against minorities were raised. 

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