“Hindu Rashtra” banners in Khargone ahead of Ram Navami, officials say “2022 won’t repeat”

Tensions are brewing in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone as the festival of Ram Navami approaches close. After hardly recovering from the destruction it endured in 2022 during the violence and the continuously unsettled atmosphere, this year, the tensions began with saffron banners appearing in some areas of Khargone with the wording “Jai Hindu Rashtra”.

The banners are being called “unconstitutional” and “provocative” by the Muslim community. It is installed in four places — two in Talab Chowk and two in Sarafa Bazar. 

Talab Chowk suffered the most during last year’s violence that killed a Muslim man. Following the violence, any Muslim houses and shops were demolished by the administration after imposing a curfew in the entire city.

Maktoob contacted MLA Khargone Ravi Joshi, who said that he has no comments over the installed banners in the town but assured that he has already warned the Khargone administration to be active and prompt during this year’s Ram Navami Celebrations.

“I discussed with the superintendent and the collector of Khargone to make sure that last year’s riots don’t occur again and I am in constant contact with the administration regarding everything. All I have to say is that last year’s happenings should not repeat no matter what, the processions and celebrations will come through peacefully,” Joshi told Maktoob.

Talab Chowk is one of those sensitive areas in Khargone that received severe blows during and after the riots in last year’s Ram Navami celebration and had undergone strict curfew and police surveillance.

A picture of a police station in Talab chowk has also gone viral, where it can be seen loaded with saffron flags around the building. Saffron is the staple colour, representing most Hindutva organizations in India. 

“There will be police barricading and it’s the sole responsibility of the police administration to ensure that the town’s safety and peace are maintained and looked after. I have requested them to be sharp and active,” Joshi added.

Shivraj Singh Verma, the collector of Khargone, got upset over the question and immediately cancelled the call.

“Keeping in view the sensitivity of Khargone, many people who publish such stuff on social media regarding the city are being tracked as most of these posts are commonly fabricated and are rumoured due to last year’s incident,” SP Dharamveer Singh said.

“These people who do not know anything about Khargone, and viral such stuff, do not have good intentions.”

“Many cases are pending in the high court, several people are in judicial custody, and what I have learned from last year’s incident is that such fabricated social media posts are created, and as a responsible SP I request that you don’t follow these posts,” He added.

On March 27, late at night, four strangers on bikes were seen whispering and marking houses in the Tawdhi Mohalla, Gular Gali of Khargone. Some people of the area and women came out of their homes to confront strangers about marking the houses wherein the men misbehaved with the women. When people started to create a scene and the situation got hostile, the men fled.

An FIR has been registered against the them, as people have sought police to check the cameras and also provide security to the people of the area.

Last week, a report by the Citizens and Lawyers Initiative, called Routes of Wrath – Weaponising Religious Processions – Communal Violence During Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti (April 2022) presents a detailed case-by-case analysis of the germination and spread of communal riots, the response by the authorities and the police in specific instances and how processions held on religious occasions become a stage to spark hatred.

According to the report, In April 2022, “India witnessed communal violence breaking out in as many as nine states, along with incidents of provocation and low-grade violence in three others.”

“In all of them, the catalyst for the violence was the same: religious processions celebrating the Hindu festivals of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, followed by targetted attacks on Muslim-owned properties, businesses and places of worship,” it stated.