Report by citizen-lawyer collective highlights how routes chosen for religious processions trigger communal riots

The 176-page report presents a case-by-case analysis of the spread of communal riots, the state and police’s responses and how processions held on religious occasions become a stage to spark hatred

March 26, 2023 03:08 am | Updated 11:59 am IST - NEW DELHI

The report by the Citizens and Lawyers Initiative, called Routes of Wrath - Weaponising Religious Processions - Communal Violence During Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, looks at how communal riots flow from religious processions. Image for representational purpose only.

The report by the Citizens and Lawyers Initiative, called Routes of Wrath - Weaponising Religious Processions - Communal Violence During Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, looks at how communal riots flow from religious processions. Image for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

A 176-page report published by a collective of citizens and lawyers brings to the fore how organisers of religious processions pick certain communally sensitive routes to provoke violence.

In his foreword to the report, former Supreme Court judge Justice Rohinton F. Nariman underscored the “primary importance to sensitise the police force in all the States of India”.

“This can be done by first informing them that Muslims situated in India are Indians,” he stressed.

The 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.

“No cause of interfaith riots has been as recurrent and widespread as the religious procession. This is as true of pre-Independence India as during the 75 years since we became a free nation. And if one factor were to be singled out as the most important catalyst for communal riots flowing from religious processions, and equally for the prevention of such riots, it would have to be the route chosen by procession organisers,” senior advocate C.U. Singh, the editor of the report, wrote.

Mr. Singh referred to the “pusillanimity” of the police in dealing with the steady manner in which such religious processions gather and vent hate, en route. In some instances, he pointed to the “collusion and connivance” of the police in licencing such sensitive routes for these marches.

Perpetual violence

The report concludes by noting that “available evidence corroborates statements by civil society groups, lawyers, academics and activists, that India has reached a stage of perpetual violence”.

It refers to an open letter by more than a 100 retired civil servants to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which stated that “the administration of law has become the means by which the minorities, particularly the Muslim community, can be kept in a state of perpetual fear”.

“While the actual commission of violence may be outsourced to fringe groups, there is little doubt as to how the ground for their operations is made fertile, how each of them follows a master script and shares a common ‘tool kit’ and how the propaganda machinery of a party as well as the state is made available to them to defend their actions,” the report quotes from the letter.

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