Communal tension in Hyderabad following Holi celebrations

Following the clash, leaders affiliated with Hindu right-wing groups and leaders of the Telangana BJP pinned the blame on Muslims, dubbing them ‘religious goons’.
Screenshots from videos surfaced on social media
Screenshots from videos surfaced on social mediaTwitter
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A clash erupted between a group of Muslims and a group of persons belonging to Scheduled Tribes in Hyderabad’s Cherlapally on Sunday, March 24, after the latter allegedly played music close to a mosque in the area, during Holi celebrations. Songs with lyrics like Hum Hindu hain (We are Hindu) were heard in several videos that surfaced on social media.  

In her complaint, Rupa, the woman injured in the clash, alleged that she and several others were celebrating the festival of Holi when Muslim residents of Bakri Mandi, an area close to Rupa’s residence in Pittala Basti, attacked them. 

Syed Kaleem, one of the accused in Rupa’s complaint, also approached the Medipally police station with a complaint of his own. In his complaint, Kaleem claimed that he and other Muslims were attacked when they questioned the residents of Pittala Basti about the kind of music being played at the ongoing Holi celebrations. Kalem alleged in his complaint that the altercation intensified with the arrival of BJP supporters.

“The songs played were those sung by BJP MLA Raja Singh, known for his communal speeches, at several rallies. We did not interrupt the celebrations until evening prayers. The situation escalated when we tried to record them dancing to the music close to the mosque,” Kaleem said.

Shankar, one of Rupa’s relatives, agreed that songs employed by MLA Raja Singh were played. “We did play a song named Jai Shree Ram. But we did not start the fight. After evening prayers at the mosque, they came and attacked us,” he alleged, adding that they received no support from the police. 

The matter escalated after several leaders affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and right-wing groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad alleged that this was an attack orchestrated by Muslims against members of the Nakkala community (ST), residing in Pittala Basti. Several leaders including Telangana BJP president and Union minister G Kishan Reddy argued that it was ‘shameful’ that the police did not invoke the SC/ST atrocities Act even after a tribal woman was attacked. 

The Medipally police registered two separate FIRs based on Rupa and Kaleem’s complaints. Both FIRs were registered under Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means) read with Section 34 (acts done by several people in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 

Speaking to the media, Hussain Naik, a member of the National Scheduled Tribe (ST) Commission, accused the Medipally police of diluting the FIR by not adding sections under the SC/ST atrocities act. When contacted, the Malkajgiri Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) PV Padmaja told TNM that they were in the process of ascertaining whether Rupa was a member of the ST community. “A certificate needs to be produced by the complainant. As of now, she has been discharged from the hospital,” the DCP stated. 

A day after the altercation, several right-wing groups protested at the scene of the clash with saffron flags and chants of ‘Jai Shree Ram.’ Union Minister and BJP state president Kishan Reddy along with BJP leader Eatala Rajender visited the place and dubbed the Muslims named in Rupa’s complaint ‘religious goons’. They further criticised the Congress government for its alleged inaction adding that the attack took place simply because bhajans (Hindu religious music) were played during celebrations. 

When asked about the music, the DCP remarked that the songs employed are evident from the videos which went viral on social media. 

The incident turned even more communal after several right-wing social media accounts, run by self-avowed supporters of the BJP, labelled the Muslims involved in the case as ‘Rohingyas and Jihadists.’ Speaking to local media, Hyderabad MP aspirant from the BJP, Madhavi Latha alleged that ‘they weren’t real Indian Muslims.’ 

A Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) ‘warned’ Muslims to live quietly, vehemently stating that India is a Hindu nation. "We gave Pakistan to you (Muslims) long ago. You are allowed to reside here quietly. What is this rowdyism? Why should Hindu songs not be played? We will wait for one more day for the police to arrest these ‘Jihadists’. Otherwise, we are prepared to go to jail," he threatened. 

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