Saffron-coloured banners declaring ‘Jai Hindu Rashtra’ – hail the Hindu nation – have appeared in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone, one year after riots broke out in the city during a Ram Navami procession.

One of the cloth banners stretches across Talab Chowk, the intersection where Jama Masjid is located and where clashes had first erupted last year. Another banner has come up in Sarafa Bazar, a market area where rioters had damaged the Dhan Mandi mosque. Local residents shared photographs of the banners with Scroll.

“The banners seem to mock us,” a Muslim businessman said, requesting anonymity. “They have been put up exactly where riots broke out.”

One of the banners has come up in Sarafa Bazar, an area that saw rioting last year. Photo: Special arrangment

On the evening of April 10, 2022, violence had spread through Khargone after Hindu groups celebrating Ram Navami, or the birth anniversary of Ram, played loud and provocative music outside the Jama Masjid, clashing with Muslims who had gathered for prayer.

The next morning, the administration demolished several Muslim properties after the state home minister from the Bharatiya Janata Party told reporters that rioters would be punished. In the aftermath of the violence, the police arrested 175 people. Barring 14, the rest were Muslim.

The appearance of the banners ahead of Ram Navami celebrations on Thursday has left the local Muslim community disturbed, the businessman said. But most people were reluctant to protest since they feared a further backlash from the administration, he added.

A Muslim teacher in a private school said: “Most banners stating ‘Jai Hindu Rashtra’ are in crowded areas, some even outside police stations and beat chowkies. But the police have not taken any action.”

The police booth at Talab Chowk. Photo: Special arrangement

When contacted on phone for a response, Khargone police superintendent Dharmveer Singh asked a Scroll reporter to call him back later. Subsequently, he did not respond to calls and messages. Neither did district collector Shivraj Singh Verma.

Khargone MLA Ravi Joshi, who belongs to the Congress party, said he will ask the police to remove the banners. “I will direct the police to look into this and they will take appropriate action,” Joshi told Scroll.

He added that the police have already been directed to ensure that no provocative music is played outside mosques on Ram Navami this year. “Last time, the police were absent when the riots broke out,” Joshi said. “This time they are present in large numbers.”

Khargone block Congress president Purna Thakur said that despite the emergence of the banners, there was “calm in the city”. He said several peace meetings had been held by the administration with leaders from both the communities, and the police were deployed in all sensitive areas.

A Muslim resident said the police have placed barricades in Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods to restrict their movement.

Also read: How ‘Kashmir Files’ added to communal fires in Khargone that ended with bulldozer injustice