ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Communal Violence in Bhadrak, Odisha

Ram Navami celebrations in Bhadrak, Odisha have always been organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its affiliate organisations and are also associated with memories of communal violence in the town. This year, the festival was celebrated aggressively against the backdrop of the BJP’s landslide victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and the town witnessed another communal clash. Even so, the majority of Bhadrak’s residents have refused to fall prey to the machinations of communal politics.

Bhadrak town in the district of the same name in Odisha has a sizeable Muslim population constituting 39.56% of the total population of 1,21,338. Centuries of living together have led to the development of a shared culture and its expressions in many ways and forms in the day-to-day life of the people. However, this harmony has been disturbed periodically. The town experienced two major communal clashes—one in 1946 and the other in 1991—with a more recent one taking place in April. What is common is that all three clashes ocurred against the backdrop of communal tension in the larger political scenario in the country and were triggered by petty local events.

The 1946 violence took place against the backdrop of the Muslim League’s demand for a separate state. In 1991, the political atmosphere of the country was communally charged, centred as it was on the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid issue. In that charged atmosphere, Ram Navami was celebrated for the first time in Bhadrak town, organised primarily by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). On the very day of the celebration, the town plunged into a major clash between the Hindus and the Muslims which led to the loss of many lives.It also spread to the nearby town of Soro and other rural areas.

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