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Violent Clashes, Crackdown on Documentary Screening on Day of Ram Temple Event

Violence broke out in parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Right-wing activists plant a saffron flag atop a holy cross, in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, on January 21, 2024. Photo: Special arrangement

Mumbai: On January 22, shortly after the consecration of the idol at the new Ram temple in Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a televised message, said, “Ram is not vivaad (dispute), Ram is the samadhan (solution), Ram is for everyone.” He further added, “There was a time when some people said that if the Ram temple was built, it would lead to unrest. Such people failed to understand the purity of India’s social sentiment. The construction of this temple of Ram Lalla is also a symbol of peace, patience, harmony and coordination in Indian society.”

His message of a “brighter future”, however, was not how people witnessed things on the ground. Violence broke out in parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Any kind of dissent was met with police action. Screenings of Ram ke Naam, a documentary film by Anand Patwardhan, were disrupted in Hyderabad and Kerala. Some educational institutions even issued pre-emptive restrictions on their students. Students were beaten up; posters were torn in some places.

Here is a list of incidents that occurred both in the run up to and on the day of the consecration ceremony.

Communal clashes in Nagpur, Mira Road, Panvel and Pune in Maharashtra

At the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, the students’ union organised a peaceful protest under the banner ‘Remembering Babri’ on Tuesday, January 23. Even as more students were joining the protest, a group of men sporting saffron scarves entered the campus, and set the banner on fire. A few among them filmed the attack. In the video, accessed by The Wire, the men could be seen chanting “Jai Shri Ram” and one of the miscreants could be seen saying, “We would destroy not one but a thousand more Babris (mosques)”.

In the recent years, the security at FTII has been beefed up. Even for alumni, visiting the campus is not possible until details are submitted to the security standing vigil at the entrance gate. “Then how did a bunch of men, clearly not from the institute, manage to enter the campus?” asked some of the students that The Wire spoke to.

After the incident, police allegedly picked up a few students under the pretext of taking them to the nearby hospital for treatment. But they were instead taken to the Deccan police station. At 3:30 pm, when The Wire called the Deccan police station for confirmation, five students were still detailed at the police station.

According to the press note issued by the Students Association after the incident, the association’s president Mankap Nokwoham was “violently attacked and brutally beaten” by the Hindutva goons. His T-shirt was torn in the assault and he sustained multiple severe bruises, the statement claimed.

The students’ association has also accused the institute’s security of inaction and the faculty of not intervening when Nokwoham was assaulted. The student body’s general secretary Sayantan Chakrabarti, who questioned the security for letting outsiders enter the campus and unleash violence, was allegedly attacked too.

On January 22, the students’ body had organised a screening of Ram ke Naam on campus. In the middle of the screening, some staff members allegedly shouted slogans and tried to stop the film. But somehow, the students stayed put and ensured that the film was not stopped midway, one of the faculty members said.

In the outskirts of Mumbai, three separate incidents – two on Mira Road and one in Panvel – were reported. According to the police, two separate cases have been registered. “We stopped rallies of Hindus from entering lanes and areas where Muslim population is high to prevent any untoward incident,” said a senior police officer.

On Sunday evening, while a group was passing by in their vehicle with saffron flags, they were allegedly stopped by some locals. The group was chanting “Jai Sri Ram”. An argument allegedly broke out and a crowd gathered, soon leading to a clash. The police have arrested 13 persons in the case. In one particular unverified video doing the rounds on X (formerly Twitter), a youth can be seen standing on a bike, waving saffron flags, a fire arm and a stick in his hand. The police said they are verifying details of the attack through CCTV footage from the area.

In Panvel, when a group of men gathered at a Muslim-dominated area called Kachhi Mohalla shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, they were confronted by the locals. There was some scuffle and a few men were injured. Soon after, a similar incident was reported at Panvel railway station too.

In the run-up to the consecration of the Ram Temple, a gaushala or cow shed was inaugurated at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.

A number of events had been announced at IIT Bombay in the run-up to the consecration of the Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya, including a shobha yatra and a ‘Ramdhun’ event.

The students’ organisation Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) hit out at IIT Bombay and accused the institute of “crawling in front of Hindutva political forces [and] giving up on the principle of secularism in the Indian constitution.”

At the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, students were “warned” against participating in any kind of protests on campus against the Ram Temple’s consecration ceremony on January 22. A directive issued by the institute said law enforcement agencies would take “necessary action” against those who participated in protests.

The Students’ Union at TISS condemned the institution’s notice.

“The Students’ Union unequivocally states that neither any recognised nor any independent student body is organising [a] protest on the said date. This baseless allegation spreads misinformation among the students and is dangerous where the dignity and safety of the student community is concerned,” the statement by the Students’ Union read.

One notice was issued before January 18. This was generic in nature and restricted all activities, gatherings and screenings in the institution’s campuses until further guidelines were issued.

However, another one was issued on January 18 and specifically mentioned the consecration of the Ayodhya Ram Temple on January 22.

Questioning the intention behind the new notice, the Students’ Union accused the TISS management of “pushing a certain political agenda onto the students”.

Hyderabad Ram ke Naam screening results in police case

A screening of Ram ke Naam was disrupted by Hindutva groups in Hyderabad on Sunday (January 21). The police reached the scene – a restaurant in the city – and took action against the organisers of the event instead of those who had disrupted it. Four people – including those who own Marley’s Joint Bistro where the event was held and members of the organising body, Hyderabad Cinephiles – were arrested. They have been charged under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 290 (public nuisance), 295A (outraging religious feelings) and 149 of the Indian Penal Code.

In another incident on January 22, shops owned by Muslims were attacked in Hathnoor village of Sanga Reddy district. A Hindutva mob allegedly set shops ablaze belonging to Muslim vendors and also damaged vehicles. The police have filed FIR in the incident.

Right-wing activists plant saffron flag atop the holy cross in Madhya Pradesh

The Wire’s Omar Rashid reported how the crowd cheered triumphantly as four young men climbed atop a small church and planted a saffron flag on the holy cross, a sacred religious symbol for Christians. The flag had ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and an image of Lord Hanuman printed on it.

This was one of the four incidents that occurred on January 21, on the eve of the ‘Pran Pratistha’ ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, in Jhabua district. Similar saffron flag hoisting incidents were reported in villages namely Dabtalai, Matasula, Uberao and Dhamaninathu, all situated in the Ranapur tehsil of Jhabua, on the western fringes of Madhya Pradesh, with the majority of the residents being tribals. As reported by The Quint, no FIR was registered in the incident.

Stone pelted on Ram ‘shobha yatra’ in Mehsana, Gujarat

The police resorted to firing tear gas shells after stones were allegedly pelted on a shobha yatra in Mehsana on Sunday (January 21). While no one was reportedly injured, the police rounded up 15 persons following the incident.

In a statement to PTI, inspector general of police Virendrasingh Yadav said that the situation was soon brought under control and that police patrolling was intensified in the area.

Kerala protest

Students of KR Narayanan Film Institute screened Ram Ke Naam amid protests from right-wing supporters. Minutes before the film was to be screened, protestors – mostly from the neighbourhood – opposed the screening. Later, after the police intervened, the students council of the film institute managed to screen the film on campus.

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