Religious violence breaks out as India's Hindus celebrate Ram Navami

Clashes reported in at least eight states after celebrating Hindus paraded through Muslim areas

The annual Hindu festival of Ram Navami has this year led to disorder in India. AFP
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Authorities in eastern India sent hundreds of riot police and cut mobile internet services in some areas on Sunday after violent clashes erupted in at least eight states during a Hindu religious festival.

Police said one person was shot dead in the Nalanda district of Bihar state on Saturday after majority Hindus and minority Muslims clashed in the town of Biharsharif.

This came a day after mobs fought running battles and set fire to homes and shops during at times frenzied public celebrations of Ram Navami.

Hindu festivals regularly feature hundreds of people — sometimes brandishing swords, guns and tridents — marching through Muslim neighbourhoods with religious music blasting from powerful sound systems.

Biharsharif police chief Shibli Nomani said nearly 100 people had been held over violence that erupted on Thursday when thousands of Hindus rallied on the streets and paraded through Muslim-dominated areas.

"The situation is under control. We are patrolling the area and ensuring no gatherings are allowed," he told AFP.

The unrest was being investigated, Mr Nomani added.

Similar sectarian flare-ups were reported in two other cities in Bihar, where authorities shut down mobile internet services in some areas and clamped down on public movement.

In Rohtas, another district hit by violence where police arrested dozens, six people were injured in an explosion inside a house where two men were allegedly making a bomb.

Bihar police tweeted that it did not appear that the blast was related to the recent unrest. Home-made explosives are sometimes used in mining in the area.

Sectarian violence also hit seven other states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka after the Hindu festival on Thursday, with dozens injured and hundreds arrested in at least 13 towns and cities.

In the Howrah region of West Bengal, rampaging mobs torched vehicles and shops on Thursday.

The state's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of orchestrating the violence. The BJP accused her of targeting Hindus.

Violence was also reported in Mr Modi's home state of Gujarat in western India, where clashes broke out in Vadodara, as well as in Aurangabad in the western state of Maharashtra.

Critics say that hardline Hindu groups have been emboldened since Mr Modi, who was Gujarat state chief minister during religious riots there in 2002, was elected Prime Minister in 2014.

Last year, similar clashes were reported across several cities on Ram Navami, including in the capital New Delhi and in the eastern state of Jharkhand, where one person was killed.

Updated: April 02, 2023, 12:55 PM