On Saturday night in Narmadapuram, Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh, a five-decade old Muslim shrine or Dargah was vandalised, and then painted in saffron by unidentified men. The incident, according to the police, came to light around 6 A,M on Sunday, when a few local youths saw that the shrine had been coated with saffron paint and that it’s door had been broken open. The dargah is located around 40 km from Narmadapuram on state highway-22, reported the Indian Express.
The shrine’s caretaker Abdul Sattar told the media that a few local youths from the village informed him at around 6 A.M that the shrine had been painted saffron. He then rushed to the spot. “After reaching, we realised that the wooden doors of the shrine were broken open and dumped in Maru river. Not only the minaret, but also the tomb and the entrance were coated in saffron paint. Furthermore, the hand pump inside the shrine compound was also uprooted,” he was quoted by IE.
According to news reports, the police acted only after the local villagers blocked the state highway-22, as their previous complaint had gone unheard. The police and the district administration teams from Makhan Nagar, Semria town reached the spot and assured the locals that an investigation will be done. Police have registered an FIR under Section 295 (A) (for deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting it’s religion or religious beliefs) of the IPC. As there was tension in the area, police personnel were deployed and repainting of the shrine was undertaken. According to reports, this shrine was targeted once before, and this repeated vandalism and attack had upset the villagers who had blocked the state highway-22 in protest and demanded the arrest of the accused.
In January Madhya Pradesh’s Home Minister Narottam Mishra decided to address a crisis brewing in Surana area of Ratlam district by invoking communal history from Uttar Pradesh. Mishra said that there was a “conspiracy to make Surana of Ratlam as ‘Kairana’ of Madhya Pradesh and that it will not be allowed to succeed.” In Uttar Pradesh, Kairana was invoked once again in December 2021, in the run up to Assembly Elections when Home Minister Amit Shah followed UP CM Adityanath, and invoked the alleged ‘exodus’ from Kairana. Interestingly this matter was last spoken about in the run up to the 2017 elections. BJP had claimed that Hindu families had left town after threats. It came up multiple times during the election campaigns.
After a brief pause, right-wing groups have once again become active in the state. Last month, on February 14, 2022, a mix of various right-wing Hindutva groups had assembled outside an autonomous post graduate government college and harassed two hijab-wearing students. Members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini recorded videos of two hijab-wearing students entering the college premises while taunting them for their “discipline”. The goons then proceeded to shout “Jai Shri Ram” and “Vande Mataram” and threatened aggressive protests if all students did not start wearing saffron outfits from the next day.
Many right wing affiliated vandals fell empowered in the state where on December 29 last year, the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet cleared the Ordinance, commonly known as the ‘Love Jihad’ law which provides for prison term of up to ten years and fine of Rs 1 lakh declaring forceful conversions for marriage ‘null and void’. This Ordinance has replaced the Religious Freedom Act of 1968 in the state.
A petition challenging the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religious Ordinance, 2020 as being violative of Article 14 (equality), 19 (freedom of speech and express, to reside anywhere), 21 (right to life) and 25 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution of India has been filed in the Supreme Court by Advocate on Record, Aldanish Rein and drawn by Advocates Rajesh Inamdar, Shashwat Anand, Devesh Saxena, Ashutosh Mani Tripathi and Ankur Azad. LiveLaw reported that the plea reads: “The impugned Ordinance in transgressing upon the freedom to marry, freedom to profess, practice and propagate any religion, and right to privacy, has guillotined the individual’s personal autonomy, equality under the law, personal liberty and the freedom of choice and expression, in blatant and flagrant violation of the fundamental rights of the individuals as guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, 21 and 25 of the Constitution of India.”
The petitioner has also highlighted the way the draft Bill was passed in the State Assembly as a “fraud on the Constitution”. The petition reportedly states that the Madhya Pradesh Ordinance “is a textbook example of blatant abuse of the powers vested under Article 213 of the Constitution. The action of the Respondents in promulgating ordinances, bypassing the legislative process of Assembly, is not only arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution but is also a fraud on the Constitution itself.”