Violent clashes broke out after a procession celebrating the Hindu festival of Hanuman Jayanti – the birth anniversary of Hindu god Hanuman – allegedly attempted to wave saffron-coloured flags in front of a mosque in north Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area on Saturday. The colour is associated with Hindu nationalist groups in India.
Members of the mob were seen brandishing swords and guns, and dancing to religious songs. Some youngsters tried to wave saffron flags in front of a local mosque, leading to stones being thrown on both sides. Gunshots were fired and some vehicles were set ablaze, according to The Wire.
Both Hindus and Muslims have accused each other of instigating the violence.
The Delhi police, which reports to prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, was accused of arbitrarily arresting 23 Muslims, including two juveniles, from the relatively poor neighbourhood following the clashes.
After facing a backlash, Delhi police commissioner Rakesh Asthana on Monday said that eight of those arrested have past criminal records. “No one involved will be spared, irrespective of their class, creed and religion,” he said.
He also denied reports that some people attempted to hoist saffron flags at the mosque.
The Jahangirpuri violence was the biggest communal flare-up in Delhi in recent weeks, which is still recovering from the scars of the 2020 riots that killed at least 50 people.
Similar religious violence broke out in five states across the country earlier this month during celebrations for the Hindu god Ram, prompting questions about the right-wing weaponising Hindu festivals to target minorities.
In the south Indian city of Hubli, a mob attacked police and vandalised public property on Saturday after a derogatory message targeting Muslims spread on WhatsApp, police said.
At least 88 people were reportedly arrested in connection to the violence after 12 police officials suffered injuries.
“People still gathered near the police station. The mob pelted stones at police, tried to enter the police station and damaged police vehicles,” said Labhu Ram, a senior police official probing the incident.
A prohibitory order has been imposed in the city and Karnataka chief minister and leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Basavaraj Bommai, said action would be taken against the perpetrators of violence.
“We have arrested all accused, and further investigation is going on. Action will be taken against the perpetrators after the investigation,” he said, according to news agency ANI.
In another incident, riots broke out after a “minor” road accident involving two motorcyclists in the western state of Gujarat on Sunday night.
Stones were thrown, a shrine was vandalised and at least 10 vehicles were torched. The local police have arrested 19 people for rioting and three others in connection with the accident.