The festival of Holi is often marred by allegations of molestation and harassment. While the catchphrase associated with the festival of colours, “Bura na mano, Holi Hai” (Don’t feel bad, it is Holi) is allegedly used to justify such acts, more often than not, women and people from non-Hindu communities become the victim of such nuisance. In extreme cases, what some see as ‘fun’ becomes a nightmare for those not participating in the festival.

Around March 25 (the day of the festival this year), several incidents came to the fore, thanks to social media platforms, where people from the Muslim community were targeted by Holi revellers. Some of the incidents allegedly involved intimidation, harassment and rowdyism, leading to FIRs and arrests.

Anticipating communal disturbance on Holi, the administration in Uttar Pradesh took preemptive measures in Shahjahanpur and Bareilly asking mosques to be covered in tarpaulin. “….they (the clerics) have been told that the mosques will be properly covered so that no mischievous element does anything to disturb communal harmony,” said senior superintendent of police (Bareilly) Ghule Sushil Chandrabhan. This goes to show how a sense of premonition and foreboding among non-participating communities ahead of the festival has perhaps become the ‘new normal’.

Patients Headed to Hospital, Men Going to Funeral — None Spared in Bijnor, UP

In a video that emerged on Sunday, March 24, a group of men can be seen stopping a bike and harassing three travellers – a man and two women, one of whom is wearing a hijab. It can be gauged from the video that the group comprised more than 10 men. They proceed to physically intimidate the trio, drenching them with water and colours despite their protestations. Towards the end of the video, the mob lets the bike pass, but not before breaking into a barrage of religious slogans like ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Jai Sri Ram.’

The Muslim man seen in the video, identified as Dilshad, was reportedly taking his sister Sophia to a doctor. His mother also had to accompany them since his sister was too unwell to walk properly. The men stopped their vehicle and forcefully smeared them with Holi colours. Dilshad was physically assaulted once he tried to resist the harassment. “Bura na mano, Holi hai (Don’t feel bad, it’s Holi)”, they jeered while doing so. Dilshad alleges that the mob tried to inappropriately touch his mother and sister while raising religious slogans.

Bijnor Police arrested three people and detained two minors in connection with the incident. As pointed out earlier, the video shows a group of more than 10 people involved in the incident.

In another case from Dhampur, Bijnor, City News journalist Nidhi Sharma was harassed on the street. She alleged that the perpetrators held her collar and poured water on her from glasses they were drinking from. She was further seen accusing policemen standing in the vicinity of not taking cognizance of such cases of harassment that were occurring just a few steps away in broad daylight.

धामपुर में हुई शर्मनाक हरकत

Posted by City News – Nidhi Sharma on Sunday 24 March 2024

In another live stream from the Dhampur police station on the same day, Nidhi reveals that the perpetrators’ mothers also misbehaved with her, but they later apologised. Sharma’s husband, who was recording, also commented that Muslims who were returning after prayers were also being forcefully smeared with colours.

As her livestream continued, the couple got into their car and started driving. On their way, they came across a group of around six individuals, some of whom were minors, throwing water at passers-by. As their car stopped, they observed three Muslim men who were clearly asking the perpetrators to stop. However, one of them from the group proceeded to smear one of the Muslim men, who was wearing a white kurta, with colours and poured water over him. The victim, who later identified himself as Mohammad Iqbal, said the three of them were going to attend a funeral.

Barely two minutes later, Sharma observed two more burqa-clad women being harassed by the same group at the same spot. One of the women had a cannula inserted in her hand and had a high fever. The duo were headed to the hospital.

मेरे थाने से निकलते ही मुस्लिम बिमार महिला के साथ कि बत्तमीज़ी

Posted by City News – Nidhi Sharma on Sunday 24 March 2024

Last year, a viral video from Dhampur showed two burqa-clad women being harassed by a group of youths. The men are seen violently throwing water balloons at the women. They did the same with other unsuspecting passers-by as well.

Muslim Man’s Rickshaw Torched in Gujarat, 2 Arrested

In Ahmedabad, a mob brutally beat up a Muslim rickshaw driver and set his rickshaw on fire.

The driver, Nawab Vora, is a resident of Nawab Chawl in Ramol. According to the complaint filed by Nawab, he had dropped off passengers near Champaner Society in Usmanpura on Monday afternoon, March 25, when one of the accused touched the hood of his vehicle with his colour-stained hands. The victim had asked them to stop dirtying his rickshaw, which angered the men. They consequently abused Vora and beat him up when he objected to the foul language. Vora pleaded with them not to hit him since he was observing Roza (the Muslim practice of observing a fast during the holy month of Ramadan). This allegedly riled them up more and the accused beat him up again. Upon the advice of some passers-by, Vora left the spot immediately. According to the complaint, as he was leaving, he could see the accused damaging his vehicle. When he returned to the spot after some time, he said that he only found the burnt frame of his rickshaw.

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Two individuals — Vijay Suryavanshi, 26, and Natwar Solanki, 39, — have been arrested in the case. Another accused, Sanjay Vyas, is on the run. Vadaj police booked them for causing hurt, using abusive words, causing damage and abatement.

YouTuber Records Unrestrained Harassment of Women in Mathura

A YouTuber who runs a channel named Ghumakkad Laali filmed her ordeal while visiting Mathura on Holi. At the beginning of the video itself, she can be seen facing her camera and pointing out how she feels unsafe. “They are asking me for my number, saying that their uncles are at home”, she is heard saying as men flock around her camera. “They specifically target women, intentionally spray water on their breasts and hips..When I protested, they asked me if I had come here to die,” she says. The visuals show hordes of men standing along either side of a staircase, throwing water and harassing women as they pass by.

In what remains one of the most harrowing first-person accounts of harassment faced in the midst of a crowd of Holi revellers, writer Meghana Sanka and independent photographer Deepti Asthana had in 2017 recorded the dark sides of the famed ‘Lath Mar Holi’,celebrated in the towns of Barsana and Nandgaon in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. As part of the festival, people try to recreate the legend of the Hindu deities Radha and Krishna, where Radha and her consorts take offence at Krishna’s advances and drive him out with sticks. The ‘festivity’, as witnessed by Meghana Sanka and Deepti Asthana, led to mass harassment of women, which involved making vulgar gestures, lewd comments, and physical harassment.

This year, in a video purportedly from Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi, a woman accompanied by a man is seen harassed by a group of men, in the presence of approximately 80-100 onlookers. The mob threw water at her, and justified their actions saying ‘Holi Hai’. When her male companion protested, he was also harassed. According to a Lallantop report on the incident, the couple had not lodged a formal complaint with the police and a probe was underway.

Mosque Defaced with ‘Jai Sri Ram’ Slogans

In Beed, Maharashtra, ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans were inscribed using Holi colours and pichkari at the Markaz Masjid. The inscription was found at around 5 pm on the day of Holi, March 25. Police have registered an FIR. SDPO Dheeraj Kumar released a video saying the accused would be arrested soon.

Instances like these are no aberration. Last year, a Japanese traveller was molested during Holi celebrations on the streets of Paharganj in New Delhi. Police took cognizance of the issue after a video had gone viral on social media, showing the 22-year-old woman being groped on camera by several men, including minors, under the pretext of applying colours as part of the celebration. In the video, someone also smashes an egg on her head, despite her clear objections and discomfort.

In a report on March 9, 2023, the Citizens for Justice and Peace documented several similar incidents on Holi, last year. On March 6, 2023, i.e., on the eve of the festival, Right Wing propaganda outlet Sudarshan News tweeted about a programme that evening titled, “मुल्ले होली मिलन में आएंगे लेकिन रंग नहीं लगाएंगे” (Mullas will come for Holi festivities, but will not allow you to apply colours.) Over a year later, the tweet is still live on the platform.

Prantik Ali is an intern at Alt News.

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