Hazaribagh, an economic nerve centre and one of the largest towns in the coal-rich regions of Jharkhand, remained under curfew for a second day on Monday following communal clashes on Ram Navami last week.
On Saturday, 65-year-old Abdul Majid was killed when a mob attacked his home in Pandu village, 40-km from Hazaribagh town. Communal clashes had erupted that day after Muslim villagers had objected to a Hindu procession passing through certain parts of the mixed neighbourhood, said senior district officials. Angry mobs set fire to seven houses and burnt vehicles passing by a nearby highway.
On Sunday, two more clashes broke out in the localities of Ramnagar and Sadar. Three men – Bhairon Gop, Anuj Srivasatva and Pradip Singh – who participated in these separate processions died of sword injuries, but the police have yet to confirm whether the injuries were accidental or deliberate.
According to a police officer, some persons had testified that the men had been injured accidentally while brandishing swords.
“One of the processions was playing a song that spoke of how everyone born here is a Hindu, as it passed by the Khirgaon graveyard on Saturday morning,” said Akhilesh Jha, Hazaribagh Superintendent of Police. “Such songs have been played in previous years too, but are usually discontinued when the police intervene. This time, too, the police intervened, but a crowd of Muslim residents had already gathered nearby and they started pelting stones at the procession. It escalated from there.”
The police have detained an unspecified number of people in connection with both the town and village incidents.
The clashes in Hazaribagh were preceded by communal violence and a two-day curfew in the adjoining district of Bokaro on April 15 and 16. In Bokaro, too, the clashes had erupted over the route of the Ram Navami procession being changed to let it pass through Sivandih, a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood.
Ram Navami was being celebrated on the ninth day of the Navratra in Bokaro district, and on the tenth and eleventh day in Hazaribagh, which is why processions were being held on different days in these places.