Rama Navami festivities turn platform for Hindutva organisations to flex muscles

There were instances of activists brandishing swords in public

April 11, 2022 09:43 pm | Updated 09:43 pm IST - Bengaluru

Revenue Minister R. Ashok and MP Tejeswi Surya during the Rama Ratha Yatra on the occasion of Rama Navami at Padmanabha Nagar in Bengaluru on Sunday..

Revenue Minister R. Ashok and MP Tejeswi Surya during the Rama Ratha Yatra on the occasion of Rama Navami at Padmanabha Nagar in Bengaluru on Sunday.. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Devotees take part in the Rama Navami celebrations in Bengaluru on Sunday.

Devotees take part in the Rama Navami celebrations in Bengaluru on Sunday. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Rama Navami festivities on Sunday became a platform for Hindutva organisations to flex their muscles, keeping the State police on their toes and worried about possible disruption of peace. What was earlier marked by a communitarian spirit of distribution of panaka and kosambari, Rama Navami celebrations on Sunday was more militant, with some Hindutva activists literally brandishing swords in public.

Processions galore

Several organisations took out shobhayatras (processions) with thousands sporting saffron shawls, loud DJ sets blaring songs with communally provocative lyrics. The processions went in front of masjids in several places, in some instances during evening prayers in the ongoing month of Ramzan. For instance, processions were taken out in front of Masjid E Qadri Chaman in Kalaburagi and Osmania Masjid in Raichur. A mosque in Mulbagal in Kolar saw provocative scenes on the eve of Rama Navami. Several videos of these shobhayatras, some marked by provocative speeches, have been doing the rounds on television and social media. Large processions were held in Belagavi, Bengaluru, Kolar, and other districts.

“Where shobhayatras passed in front of mosques, we were very worried that it may trigger tension. But fortunately, no untoward incident happened,” said a senior police official who did not wish to be named. Another official said despite several attempts to prevent it, Hindutva organisations deliberately tried to and in some cases successfully turned up in front of mosques when the community broke fast in the evening and had gathered in large numbers.

Maqsood Imran Rashadi, Imam of Jamia Masjid, City Market in Bengaluru, said the community ulemas had instructed all members of the community not to react to any kind of provocation. “We anticipated such provocation and asked our community members not to react,” he said. 

MLAs in the lead

In many areas, BJP legislators led Sri Rama shobhayatras and rathayatras themselves. Revenue Minister R. Ashok who organised a Sri Rama rathayatra in his constituency Padmanabha Nagar, that saw thousands take to the streets on Sunday, said he wanted to make Rama Navami celebrations catch up like Ganesha festivities.

“I have spoken to other BJP MLAs in the city. We will start such rathayatras in every constituency from next year,” he said. Denying this was part of the political mobilisation for the upcoming Assembly polls, he said this was to mark the start of work for Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Other Ministers, including C.N. Ashwath Narayan, Byrathi Basavaraj, and Union Minister Pralhad Joshi, led similar processions in their constituencies.

Mr. Joshi, leading a shobhayatra in Hubballi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had fulfilled his promise of resolving the Rama Janmabhoomi row and initiated the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Along with celebrating Ram Navami, people should also start treading the path of Lord Rama to fulfil the dream of building ‘Rama Rajya’, he said.

JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy came down heavily on the State Government and the ruling BJP party. “People have held rallies with swords and talwars in hand, making communally provocative speeches and have deliberately tried to provoke tension. Will the State Government act on them or in turn to support them?” he questioned. 

Govt. inaction

Several civil society organisations and activists expressed concern over the change in character of Rama Navami festivities in the State. “This year we have seen that Hindutva groups have been using Rama Navami festival to intimidate Muslims. What is most shocking is the complete inaction of the police and the administration. The civil society must raise its voice and oppose the violence and intimidation,” said Maitreyi K. of Bahutva Karnataka, a coalition of progressive organisations fighting to retain the plurality of the State.

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