Rights group demands judicial inquiry into anti-Muslim violence in Madhya Pradesh

National Alliance of People’s Movements said it is deeply disturbed and outraged at multiple instances targeting the Muslim community and their localities, places of worship in the districts of Mandsaur, Ujjain and Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

“We clearly see a pattern in these crimes to incite hate and violence against the Muslims by certain Hindutva forces, with the BJP-ruled state government remaining luke-warm to the offences being committed,” reads a statement by NAPM, an alliance of progressive people’s organisations and movements in India.

The signatories include activists Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy and Sandeep Pandey called for stringent action by the state government against the right-wing activists and organisations who have been responsible for the vandalism and violations.

As part of the week-long donation drive for construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, multiple incidents of anti-Muslim violence have occurred in the past week in the Malwa-Nimad region, a strong hold of the RSS.

NAPM demanded an independent and time-bound judicial investigation into all the incidents of violence, vandalism and demolitions at Indore, Mandsaur, Ujjain and Dhar as part of the ‘Ram Mandir Nirman Nidhi Sangrah Abhiyan’.

NAPM also claimed this spate of incidents takes place just as Madhya Pradesh added its name to the growing list of states enacting anti-conversion laws.

Taking the ‘ordinance’ route, BJP government enforced the Madhya Pradesh Religious Freedom Bill, 2020 (approved by the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet on 27 December).

“The relentless changes in legislation enabling targeting of minority communities, as well as the clear sense of impunity evident through the Ayodhya Verdict, the handling of the Delhi ‘Riots’ (2020) and similar incidents, further endangers an already vulnerable minority population, in particular, womxn, whose agency is held null and void,” reads the NAPM statement.

The rights group also raised concerns about stand up comedian Munawar Faruqui’s arrest.

“The recent arrest of stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui, along with Edwin Anthony, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas and Nalin Yadav on the charge of ‘hurting religious sentiments’ also needs to be seen in this broader context,” it said.

Government must ensure the complete safety and security of all citizens, in particular those belonging to the vulnerable minority community, NAPM demanded.

The umbrella of rights group also appealed to government to give the payment of appropriate compensation, based on market value, to all those persons whose property has been damaged in these incidents.

NAPM also said to state authorities that no permission must be accorded to any public rallies in the name of ‘temple construction’ that have potential to give rise to communal tensions and violence.

Begum Bagh, Ujjain

On 25 December, about 300 members of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) and other right-wing organisations shouted anti-Muslim slogans, prompting residents to object to their rally in the Begum Bagh locality, leading to stone-pelting and injuries to 11 individuals, with one person grievously injured. A day later, the Ujjain Municipal Corporation (UMC) came to remove ‘illegal structures’ in the area. However, a local social worker Mohammad Ayub claims that, when UMC officials realized that the house they were about to demolish belonged to a Hindu named Meerabai, they instead demolished the adjacent 2 story house of Abdul Hameed (Abdul Rafiq). Meerabai, who has temporarily given a room to Abdul to stay, says her neigbour is a working class person who built the house with hard work of 35 years !

Reports indicate that the police has so far arrested upto 18 residents of Begum Bagh, of whom about ten members (including Ayaz Mohammad, Wasim Aslam, Shadab Akram and Altu Aslam) have been booked under National Security Act (NSA) and ten others have been booked on charges of attempt to murder, rioting, voluntarily causing hurt and giving false statement. At least two of these are women. Apparently the police is on the lookout for two Muslim women, Hina and Yasmeen. It is not clear if any members of the BJYM / rally participants have been arrested yet, in spite of video evidence showing them pelting stones.

Chandankhedi, Indore

On 28 December, ‘clashes’ with stone-pelting were reported from Indore during a rally organised by Hindutva groups through Gautumpura, in Chandankhedi, an area with sizeable Muslim population, leaving 5 people injured. As reported by officials, around 200 people chanted ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ and “Jai Shri Ram” slogans outside the mosque when prayers were being offered inside. This led to a heated exchange between the group of 200 people and Muslims, and to stone pelting. Witnesses inform that some members from the rally holding saffron flags climbed the mosque and tried to damage the minaret. Videos also showed the Hindutva group members trying to damage nearby houses and vehicles.

The Indore police claims to have arrested upto 30 people, of which at least 27 are villagers and plans to make more arrests under NSA. A day after this incident, district administration began demolishing around 80 houses in the Muslim-locality of the village, for ‘widening the road’ and stated that this had ‘nothing to do’ with the violence on the previous day.

Dorana, Mandsaur

It has been reported that on 29 December afternoon, a rally of an estimated 5,000 workers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) marched the streets of Dorana village in Mandsaur district. At about the same time, a large mob played loud DJ music outside the mosque, vandalized and looted properties for almost 3-4 hours in the Muslim locality, which constitutes one-fifth of the village population. They also placed a saffron flag on the mosque. Petrified at the manner in which they were targeted, many Muslims, including women fled their homes and some hid in the fields. VHP however claims their rally was ‘peaceful’ and ‘some other miscreants’ were responsible for the incident. The District SP has stated on record that no permission was taken for rally.

Reports indicate damaged window panes, broken doors, walls scribbled with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and many Muslim villagers scared to return to their own homes. The police have since arrested five persons and registered an offence against 58 others based on complaints by the villagers. Apparently, the administration has lodged four FIRs for alleged vandalism and desecration of a religious place. The right-wing groups have also filed 2 FIRs against Muslims with the claim that they were abused and attacked.