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Hate and Harmony: The Two Sides of Ram Navami in West Bengal

While there were instances of violence, stories of communal harmony came out from the same areas too.

Published
India
4 min read
Hate and Harmony: The Two Sides of Ram Navami in West Bengal
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Ram Navami celebrations in West Bengal were in full swing as several processions were organized by Ram Bhakts across the state on Sunday, 10 April.

Many of these processions were organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Durga Bahini and the BJP, who have been making it a grand affair in Bengal.

A Ram Navami rally organised by VHP

(Photo: VHP)

Trinamool Congress leaders too, were seen taking part in some of these processions.

While several parts of the country including Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone and Gujarat’s Sabarkantha witnessed isolated instances of violence, Bengal too saw clashes with two notable ones having taken place in Howrah and Bankura.

Violence during Ram Navami celebrations is not a new affair in West Bengal. The past few years have seen isolated incidents of violence on this occasion.

Hindus and Muslims Clash in Howrah’s Shibpur

At least 10 people including cops were injured after Hindus, who were taking part in the Ram Navami processions clashed with Muslims in Howrah’s Shibpur. According to the Indian Express, the situation grew violent after an alleged provocative speech from the rally.

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On the other hand, participants in the rally allege that it was the local Muslims in the area who started pelting stones at them. The situation escalated as the procession reached Fazir Bazaar where both parties were seen pelting stones at each other. Local police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd, but as the situation got worse, the Rapid Action Force had to be called in to bring the situation under control.

Police bikes were set on fire, and public property was damaged.

Ram Bhakts Clash with Police in Bankura

The second instance of violence happened in Bankura’s Machantala where a Ram Navami procession was heading towards the town, the local police had stopped them in the town’s outskirts citing that the law-and-order situation can worsen if the procession is allowed in this direction. Officials allege that stones were hurled at the cops from the rally which led to the police lathi-charging and using tear gas against the participants.

However, union minister Subhash Sarkar, who too was at the rally alleged that Trinamool supporters had joined the rally and were behind the violence. His car was attacked during the chaos that ensued. 17 people have been arrested with regards to the incident.

Weapons Brandished

Despite the West Bengal government strictly restricting the usage of weapons in rallies, several Ram Navami rallies saw participants brandishing swords. BJP, VHP and TMC leaders were seen brandishing weapons in rallies.

According to India Today, TMC block president Manotosh Ghosh in Malda was seen brandishing a sword at one of the rallies.

In Hooghly, women were seen holding tridents while the men showed off their swords.

In Bhatpara, BJP MP Arjun Singh alleged that the police were confiscating weapons from the youth during the rallies. He said that it is a ritual to brandish weapons during Ram Navami. It must be noted here that Bhatpara had seen violent Hindu-Muslim riots in the aftermath of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

A procession that passed through Shyamashree Cinema Hall in Howrah’s Shibpur saw BJP state committee member Umesh Roy brandishing a sword in his hand. The rally was going towards Ramrajatla. While the route of the rally is near the area where Hindus and Muslims clashed in Shibpur, it is not known whether it was this rally led to the scuffle.

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Video footage from the day does show Ram Bhakts holding what might look like a sword as they pelted stones.

Trigger Warning: Strong Language. Viewer discretion advised.

Anti-Muslim Songs

Videos circulated on social media from Sunday also showed some rallies playing anti-Muslim music with women and children dancing to the tune.

Trigger Warning: Strong Language. Viewer discretion advised.

A Message of Communal Harmony

But amidst the violence and communal tension, there were some stories which sought to prove otherwise – to send a message of communal harmony. What is interesting here is that one of such stories came from the same area where the violence happened – Howrah.

In Howrah and Siliguri, India Today and Zee 24 Ghanta reported stories of how Muslims gave bottles of drinking water to the Ram Bhakts who were taking part in the Ram Navami rallies, on an otherwise hot sunny April afternoon. The Muslims were out on the street giving water despite fasting for Ramzan. Many of the bhakts were also seen taking selfies with each other.

India Today also reported that in Murshidabad’s Panchthupi village, Hindus and Muslims marched in a rally together to promote communal harmony. The rally which was hosted by Bajrang Dal saw over 500 participants.

While instances of violence may have rocked West Bengal on Sunday, the situation seems to be quiet at the time of writing this article. The police, however, are investigating the two cases of violence.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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