On July 31st, 2023, clashes emerged in the Nuh district of Haryana when the yearly Braj Mandal Yatra, organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), passed through the communally sensitive areas of the state. By the evening of the same day, communal clashes fissured out to the nearby districts of Gurugram and Sohna.
In a horrendous turn of events, seven people lost their lives, and two hundred others got grievously injured after an otherwise “peaceful Hindu procession” passed through the “Muslim majority areas” of Nuh. The riots resulted in arson, stone-pelting, the firing of unregistered arms, and dirty politics over the prospect of communal polarisation.
Despite repeated intelligence alerts by law-enforcement and anti-riot agencies, the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP Government of Haryana failed to curtail violence and, instead of taking accountability for its blatant administrative failure, retorted to bull-doze more than 1,200 houses and shops inside the riot-affected areas.
Despite such a gruesome outcome of events, the Sarv Jatiya Hindu Mahapanchayat urged to resume the adjourned violence-smeared Shobha Yatra in Nuh again on August 28th. The law enforcers did their part by denying permission to the said Yatra and shrugged off any other responsibility.
The VHP, on the other hand, was adamant about resuming the Yatra. They even went to the extent of asserting that there was no need to obtain permission for such religious events.
Even CM Khattar appealed to the devotees to offer prayers at local temples instead of participating in the procession. As a response, the head of the Vishwa Hindu Takht claimed before the media, “When even PM Modi wants to create a Hindu Rashtra, it is shameful for a BJP Chief Minister to restrict a religious Yatra.”
Preparations for the Yatra:
Over 1,900 Haryana Police personnel and 24 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed to Nuh, which otherwise would have served to protect the commoners.
The administrators halted the civic functioning for the day in Nuh by imposing 144 of the Code for Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and calling for the closure of educational institutions and banks. They also suspended mobile Internet and bulk SMS services to quell the probability of a communal outrage.
All these arrangements were for only fifteen onlookers and several right-wing leaders to offer prayers at the Shiv temple in the Nalhar area of Nuh.
The imperative questions to ask are:
- Who provided VHP with the audacity to shun the prohibition by the law enforcers and carry out the same “Yatra” that got marred with violence not even a month earlier?
- Who would have taken accountability if a second riot broke out in the communally wounded district of Nuh?
- Why do the members of these processions yield weapons during their events and make inciteful claims over social media before embarking on such ‘religious processions?’ Who manages their bail after they get detained for their attack on the nation’s communal harmony?
- Above all, why lately has there been an unprecedented flux of violence in communally sensitive regions where hateful sloganeering masquerades under ‘religious processions?’
Article 28 of the Indian constitution permits anyone to participate in any religious ceremony and procession. Given the tumultuous nature of the post-internet world, everyone needs to establish a connection with their spiritual sides. However, if you browsed the internet and observed what happens in some of these “religious processions,” you shall witness how spirituality gets maligned under bigotry and communal hatred.
How Lokmanya Tilak used religion to unite the collective conscience of Hindustan:
At the time when the Britishers kicked around Indian traditions and culture, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak realised the necessity of rousing the Indian masses and directing them into defending the oriental culture of Hindustan, which the Britishers were trying so hard to belittle.
Tilak decided to uphold “Ganpati Bappa,” a God who was worshipped by all the Hindus sans any barrier of caste, creed, and sex, as a symbol of unity amongst the masses and prompt them to lock horns with the British Raj and the alien western culture.
From 1893 onwards, Lokmanya Tilak augmented the “Ganpati Utsav.” His charisma and passion instigated the Marathi-speaking community of the Bombay province to participate in the festival and celebrate it at an unprecedented scale.
The Britishers, at first, failed to see through Lokmanya’s prudence and perceived the “Ganpati Utsav” to be void of any political significance. However, when masses started flogging to celebrate the Utsav, where even Muslims gathered to exchange a communal bonhomie, Britishers could foresee where it was heading.
The Utsav, which at face value resembled a mere “religious ceremony,” soon emerged as a consolidated uproar against the Britisher’s cultural and political tyranny. Radical freedom fighters from all the regional communities gathered in this festivity with a dedication to unleash carnage on the British Raj, and soon, this religious celebration evolved into a hotbed of anti-British sloganeering and political unrest.
Look around yourself and comprehend how the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has been organising similar rallies and “Shobha-yatras” with the same political sloganeering. Only this time, the target is not a European coloniser but the minorities of our own country who get lambasted and asked to prove their loyalty before their own nation.
All this unfurls while some hooligans get used as tools for pursuing political vendetta catering to a particular political ideology. Who are they? Are they the children of our Netas? Or are they business tycoons or media celebrities? None. They are the brainwashed elements of our society, generally from economically backward classes, who serve as mere pawns in a war of ‘divisive politics.’ Their death shall serve as collateral damage for some to remain in power.
Tilak’s religious procession (open to all) was a charade to unite the countrymen against foreign tyranny, and today’s “religious processions” (referring to all orthodox-minded communities) are tools to divide a permissive and culturally composite nation into communal lines using half-truth and half propaganda.
Observe how far our country has treaded from the path once envisaged by the architects of modern India like Lokmanya Tilak, Netaji Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, and Bhagat Singh. India had already lost a part of its soul via the bloody partition of 1947 to satiate the thirst of power-hungry communal politicians. Today, the onus is on us to ensure that history does not repeat itself again.