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Decoding the Medak Violence & the Rise of Hindutva in Telangana

Telangana, where the BJP has made inroads over the last few years, has been witnessing a rise in communal tensions.

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"I have never seen anything so terrible happen here before. This town has always been peaceful," asserted Barkhat Ahmed, the headmaster of Minhaj Ul Uloom madrasa, located at Indira Colony in the central Telangana town of Medak.

The 50-year-old was referring to the communal violence that unfolded before his eyes on 15 June – merely days ahead of Eid al-Adha – after an alleged mob associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) accused two madrasas in the area, including Ahmed's, of harbouring cows for slaughter on their premises.

Speaking to The Quint, Ahmed said:

"Every year, animals are sacrificed here for Bakrid. We only sacrifice oxen, not cows. That has been the case across Medak. But RSS log (members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) insisted that they take our animals to the gaushala, though we were ready to submit medical certificates proving they're not cows."

As many as 38 people – 14 from the Hindu community and 28 from the Muslim community – were arrested in the violence that broke out after a standoff that lasted hours.

Properties of Muslims were damaged, and the Orthopedic Hospital in Medak, where several Muslims were being treated, also suffered property damage.

"The main glasses of some hospitals were destroyed. Two shops, a paan shop, and fruit shop were also destroyed," Medak Superintendent of Police B Bala Swamy told The Quint. The arrested persons included BJP district president Gaddam Srinivas, BJP Medak town president M Nayam Prasad, and Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) district president Sateesh.

Months before violence broke out in Medak town, which falls in the district by the same name, communal violence erupted in the neighbouring Medchal-Malkajgiri district in March. Multiple attacks on Muslims were also witnessed during the Ram Mandir consecration in Ayodhya in January.

Do these incidents reveal a deeper pattern?

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What Happened in Medak?

Ahmed told The Quint that his madrasa had procured 40 oxen for qurbani (sacrifice) a few days ahead of Bakrid on 17 June.

At about 10 am on 15 June, when the animals were grazing near a lake beside the madrasa, "a few RSS log – between the ages of 18 and 25 – began taking photos of them. The staff alerted me and went there to see what was happening."

Ahmed said that he and the madrasa secretary Arif Samdani informed the police to avoid any untoward incidents.

"Four police personnel arrived. We told them it was not illegal to hold the cattle as there were no cows in the group. The police then asked the RSS log why they were creating an issue. They insisted that the cattle included cows and that they must be taken to a gaushala," Ahmed alleged.

He added that "like every other year, we were ready to submit the medical certificates of the animals."

The Telangana Prohibition of Cow Slaughter and Animal Preservation Act, 1977, makes the slaughter of cows and calves illegal in the state. However, other cattle (of a certain age) can be slaughtered with a certificate from a competent authority.

The police began negotiating with both groups. "We told the police we would come to the station only on the condition that the RSS group left the premises. But they wanted to take our animals to the gaushala," Ahmed said.

The standoff went on till 3 pm. In the meantime, the number of people on both sides went up, with the Hindu group putting up a tent nearby.

At around 3:30 pm, the Medak Deputy Superintendent of Police reached the spot and asked both parties to disperse.

"The DSP urged us to give the police the animals for a few hours, and that they would be returned after a medical exam. They then took them to a kalyana mandapam nearby," Ahmed said.

The Medak MP confirmed to The Quint that no cows were found in the group. "All the animals were oxen. We had determined that early on," he added.

Meanwhile, talking to The Quint days after the incident, BJP district president Srinivas, who was among those arrested, said,

"There were no cows, we admit that. But they were young oxen, it was their age that was a bone of contention. They (Muslims) needed a certificate to prove that."

Second Incident at Another Madrasa 

Parallelly, a group of self-styled gaurakshaks went to another madrasa nearby, Madrasa Arabia Madeenat Ul Uloom in Rahimabad, where a similar argument over the alleged presence of cows broke out.

A fact-finding committee report published by the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights, accessed by The Quint, stated:

"Around 5-6 pm, a mob gathered in Rahimabad around the Madeenat Ul Uloom Madrasa. Another 11 animals (oxen) were grazing near madrasa. A similar situation occurred where the Hindu right wing created unnecessary disruption. They began chanting slogans there against the slaughter of animals, claiming them to be cows."

Tensions escalated quickly with the right-wing activists taking out a rally armed with rods and sticks. "(They) launched an attack on Muslims and their properties resulting in injuries to seven Muslim youths," the fact-finding committee's report said.

Samdani from Minhaj Ul Uloom madrasa received injuries to his head and torso in the attack. While Dr Naveen, a doctor at the Orthopedic Hospital in Medak, was treating him, "a mob of 150 to 200 people, identified as BJP and BJYM workers, vandalised the hospital and damaged a doctor's car during the assault," the report added.

"Stones were thrown from the hospital, that's why we attacked it," claimed Srinivas.

"Our people lost control. They got agitated and destroyed some of their properties. I don't know who did what exactly."
Gaddam Srinivas, BJP district president

Though the police managed to bring the situation under control, Ahmed said that "had they acted earlier, a physical confrontation could have been avoided."

The Muslim community, however, did not receive their cattle back in time for Bakrid.

"We got our animals only two days after Bakrid. About 1,000 people couldn't take part in the qurbani because of this. Moreover, many of us couldn't celebrate Eid as our youngsters were in jail and some were in the hospital recovering," Ahmed told The Quint.

"Before any festival, we have a peace committee meeting with both communities. On the day of the incident, we were supposed to have one such meeting, which involved members from the Hindu and Muslim communities. The meeting happens before every festival, mainly Ganesh festival and Bakrid, as they're celebrated in groups," the Medak SP said.

"Police acted and controlled the situation. We took the oxen into our custody to prevent any violence. We took 40 oxen into our custody for the determination of their age, as per the law. But the issue got escalated as the people involved went to another madrasa nearby. We gave the animals back to them two days after the festival."
B Bala Swamy, Medak SP
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Why Medak?

The BJP's rise in Telangana over the last decade has been steady – from winning one Lok Sabha and Assembly seat each in 2014 to winning 10 Assembly seats in the 2023 state polls and eight Lok Sabha seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Linking the rise in communal tensions to the BJP gaining inroads in Telangana, senior journalist and political commentator R Pridhvi Raj told The Quint,

"The party is keen to spread its tentacles in the southern states. After Karnataka, their focus has been on Telangana. They want to grow here, and the party is showing green shoots in areas where it was dormant all these years, Medak being the case in point."

The Medak Lok Sabha constituency got its first BJP MP, M Raghunandan Rao, in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The MP, once a Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS, earlier Telangana Rashtra Samithi or TRS) man, visited those injured in the communal violence in the hospital and even bailed out the arrested persons from the Hindu community.

"While we cannot directly link the violence to his (Raghunandan's) rise as an MP, BJP workers will undoubtedly be encouraged to rake up Hindutva sentiments and polarise communities when their party is in power here," Pridhvi Raj opined.

In June, as Lok Sabha results were announced, Raghunandan's ascent to the Parliament was a severe blow to the K Chandrasekhar Rao-led BRS as the Medak region had traditionally been considered his party's bastion. The region comprises Assembly constituencies like Gajwel, Siddipet, and Sircilla held by KCR, his nephew Harish Rao, and his son KT Rama Rao, respectively.

Nearly four years ago, in November 2020, Raghunandan had served another blow to the TRS by emerging victorious in the Dubbaka by-election. Dubbaka is an Assembly constituency in the Medak region surrounded by Siddipet, Gajwel, and Sircilla segments.

Surprising the TRS – and disappointing a then-weakened Congress – Raghunandan, who belongs to KCR's Velama caste won, primarily on the back of farmers' woes and anger against KCR's rule.

This win had given the BJP the necessary ammunition to make substantial inroads in the 2020 Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls, which were held a month later.

In the 2023 Assembly polls, though Raghunandan lost the Dubbaka seat to the BRS, his efforts in the region to build a Hindutva sentiment remained consistent.

Promoting Maratha ruler Shivaji as a ‘Hindutva icon’ in Telangana is one such effort. About a year ago, Raghunandan was subjected to a preventive arrest by the Telangana police after communal clashes were reported in KCR's Gajwel over a man allegedly urinating near a Shivaji statue.

Raghunandan had also inaugurated a Shivaji statue in his constituency two years ago.

"Shivaji is not really an icon in Telangana though he has been positioned as one by the Hindu right-wing, especially in the north Telangana region which borders Maharashtra, where the ruler is celebrated. But historically speaking, he is not an anti-Muslim ruler, though that would suit the right wing's agenda."
Pridhvi Raj

The Medak town in central Telangana, too, has a Shivaji statue, which was inaugurated by BJP MLA Raja Singh a year ago. Singh is infamous for his anti-Muslim hate speeches.

After the 15 June incident, Raghunandan said to the media:

“The district police, including the SP, have completely failed to maintain law and order in Medak. The police officers who succumbed to political pressure and neglected the peace and security of Medak should be suspended and legal action should be taken against them.”

He further accused the police of having “different policies for Hindus and Muslims.” The Quint has reached out to the MP for further comment. This story will be updated as and when we receive a response.

Meanwhile, Afeez, a minority leader from the Congress party in Medak, told The Quint that the BJP is "purposefully trying to fan communal flames as they have an MP here. They are trying to make an issue here because the Congress has come to power in Telangana".

He added, "About 20 years ago, a clash erupted in the Patancheru area in Medak. But all these years have been peaceful and nothing of this scale has happened."

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Medak Not an Isolated Case

Closer to Ram Mandir consecration in Ayodhya in January, Telangana was one of the states which saw widespread incidents of communal violence. In Kosgi town in Narayanpet district, a right-wing-led procession allegedly "burnt crackers in front of a mosque, and some persons threw sandals into the mosque," as per the FIR registered in the case.

The FIR, accessed by The Quint, also stated that "some papers were blown out" which went into the mosque.

Tensions were also reported in Sangareddy district (part of the erstwhile Medak district), where a shop belonging to a Muslim fruit vendor was reportedly set on fire.

"Some unknown persons threw a shoe at a procession, and then the mob went wild and sat on the road for one hour. One person's shop was set on fire by the mob," a police official from Jinnaram police station had told The Quint.

Besides, North Telangana, which covers Adilabad, Karimnagar, and Nizamabad, among other districts, is a region where the BJP has already proved its mettle both in Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. And several places in this region – like the Bhainsa town in Bodhan district – are communally sensitive and have seen clashes in the past.

You can read The Quint's ground report from Bhainsa here.

On 25 March this year, Chengicherla in Ghatkesar town, located in the Medchal-Malkajgiri district – which borders Hyderabad – saw a communal flare-up when Hindus and Muslims clashed after a group of villagers played songs on a music system adjacent to a mosque on the occasion of Holi. Ghatkesar falls under the Malkajgiri constituency, which was won by the BJP's Eatala Rajender in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Malkajgiri was previously held by Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy.

While the police intervened and detained members of both communities, another scuffle broke out the very next day after right-wing groups took out a rally in protest.

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What’s Happening Electorally?

After the recent incident at Medak, BRS leader KT Rama Rao posted on X that "Telangana was peaceful sans any communal violence for the last 9.5 years with KCR Garu at the helm of affairs."

"And now in the Congress Government, neither is there any Law nor any Order. Truly shameful that even a peaceful town Medak which never had any communal activity in the past has now become a mess (sic)," he added.

While KCR has had a close association with Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM and has sported a 'true Hindu' outlook that discards political Hindutva, there had been a steady rise in Hindutva activism, cow vigilantism, and incidence of hate speeches by BJP leaders during his tenure, political commentators pointed out.

"KCR's tenure was marked by fewer incidents of communal violence, but his party's electoral downfall has empowered the BJP, which is trying to emerge as the primary opposition to the Congress in the state."
Mir Ayoob Ali Khan, a senior journalist based in Hyderabad and a consulting editor with Siasat

In the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress only marginally improved its vote share (little less than 40 percent) from the Assembly polls in December 2023. Meanwhile, the BRS' vote share nosedived from 37 percent in the Assembly elections to around 17 percent in the current Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP, meanwhile, polled nearly 35 percent in the current Lok Sabha polls, which is a steady increase when compared to 14 percent in the 2023 Assembly elections. Therefore, there has clearly been a transfer of votes from the BRS to the BJP.

"The vacuum left by the BRS has to be filled by somebody. The BJP is ready to do that, and it also has the Union government's support," Khan added.

Khan further pointed out that the BJP's efforts in Telangana over the years have produced influential leaders like Bandi Sanjay Kumar and G Kishan Reddy, who have been rewarded with posts in the Union government. Leaders like Raja Singh, who is infamous for making anti-Muslim hate speeches, have also thrived (despite his brief arrest and suspension) in Telangana and other states.

Wherever there is unrest, these leaders are the first to reach the spot, he pointed out.

Citing an example of the BJP's visible growth in Telangana over the past decade, Khan stated:

"Let's look at the (Bhagyalakshmi) mandir near Charminar. It was almost non-existent 35 years ago. Now it has become a big structure occupying one side of Charminar, affecting the significance of a monument that is over 400 years old."

"What does this mean? The structure's growth is not out of respect to the Goddess but is part of a dangerous and insincere plan to spread communalism and divide the community in Hyderabad. Every major BJP minister coming to the city has been visiting the Bhagyalakshmi mandir," he added.

It is also important to note that the BJP leaders have made claims in the past that they will rename Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar if the party ever comes to power.

"The Congress and the Revanth Reddy government would need to ensure that they would tackle communal issues with an iron hand. Otherwise, it would prove to be politically harmful to them as the BJP thrives in such situations," Khan pointed out.

In a recent speech, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, too, urged the Congress in Telangana to examine why there has been a rise in communal incidents during the Revanth Reddy government’s seven-month tenure. "If the police had taken action immediately in Medak, the situation would not have escalated so far," he pointed out.

He also demanded that the United Progressive Alliance government’s Prevention of Communal Riots Bill be enacted in Telangana to prevent future incidents.

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