Over the past fortnight, Hindu religious processions have descended into violence and chaos across India, giving rise to concerns the country is becoming more polarised than ever.
In the capital New Delhi police have arrested at least 24 people since communal violence broke out last weekend during a Hindu religious procession in the suburb of Jahangirpuri.
According to authorities, Hindu and Muslim groups threw stones at each other during the procession marking the birth date of the Hindu god Hanuman.
Eight police officers and one civilian were injured.
A familiar pattern across states
“It was almost like what was played out elsewhere in the country, where a bunch of Hindu fanatics brandishing swords and holding saffron flags pass through Muslim neighbourhoods shouting anti-Muslim slogans,” Majid Khan, a shopkeeper in Delhi told RFI.
“They issued open threats to kill the members of the minority community.”
Meanwhile Noor Jahan, a homemaker, added: “This procession takes place every year in our neighbourhood. But why did they (Hindus) stop in front of the mosque this year where people were holding evening prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan?”
Police managed to bring about a semblance of calm by forming a human chain between the two groups. However, tempers allegedly flared up over sloganeering, leading to violence.
“Action will be taken against any person found guilty irrespective of their class, creed, community and religion,” said Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana.
In Delhi and Madhya Pradesh, which saw some of the worst rioting, officials later bulldozed the homes of Muslims accused of throwing rocks.
The events in Delhi were far from isolated.
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More than 120 people were arrested in connection with incidents of communal violence and rioting between Hindus and Muslims in the states of Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka during celebrations of Hanuman Jayanti.
Videos posted on social media showed scenes similar to those that played out in Delhi where crowds of men, brandishing swords and tridents marched around mixed neighbourhoods to fiery chants hailing Lord Ram.
“The new Hinduism is about widespread acceptance of vile prejudice, alignment of state with majoritarian power, contempt for rights, glorification of violence,”