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“Maharashtra reporting massive rise in Muslim extremism: Challenges to Harmony: Navigating Communal Tensions in Maharashtra”

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( Kunal Raj & Adv Ashutosh Mishra)

Maharashtra, a beacon of prosperity and cultural diversity in India, has a storied history of inclusivity and tolerance. However, recent events have cast a shadow on the state’s peace, as communal incidents disrupt the social fabric. A thorough examination reveals a complex interplay of factors, including social media dynamics, historical sensitivities, and the rise of extremism, particularly from certain factions of the Muslim community.

The 2011 census paints a vivid picture of Maharashtra’s diverse population, with Hindus forming the majority at 79.83%, followed by Muslims at 11.54%, Buddhists at 5.81%, Jains at 1.25%, Christians at 0.96%, Sikhs at 0.20%, and others at 0.41%. The state’s history boasts illustrious personalities who have not only shaped Maharashtra but also left an indelible mark on Indian public life. However, recent incidents, such as the Raza Academy rallies in 2021 and the disturbances in mid-2023, underscore the challenges to the state’s peace.

One prominent battleground for communal tensions is social media, where extremists, particularly those advocating Islamic Supremacy, denigrate icons of other faiths. This disrespectful discourse ignites emotionally charged reactions, leading to confrontations when authorities fail to respond swiftly. The glorification of tyrant Mughal ruler Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan emerges as a chief catalyst for unrest, creating a schism between communities.

The report delves into the concerning fanaticism among some Muslims, encouraging the conversion of non-Muslims. While conversion is an individual choice, the use of allurement and coercion has sparked disputes, adding another layer to the existing conflicts. The incapacity of political and intellectual classes to curb mob violence, illegal immigration, and terror operations has gradually weakened the social fabric, erupting sporadically in acts of significant violence. The actions of Muslim extremists threaten the accommodating mindset that has historically defined Maharashtrians.

With over 600 million social media users in India, the right to free expression under the Indian constitution collides with incidents like the one reported from Ahmednagar in June. Here, AIMIM leaders flaunted posters of Aurangzeb, drawing criticism from Hindus who revere Ch Shivaji Maharaj. The subsequent attempts by Muslim extremists to belittle Ch Shivaji Maharaj and offend Hindus on social media sparked protests and demands for justice.

Recent incidents in Maharashtra have raised serious concerns about the state of communal harmony and security within the region. Despite boasting one of the country’s most robust police departments, the rise of mob violence targeting non-Muslim groups is alarming. It is essential for responsible individuals to approach law enforcement before taking matters into their own hands.

Disturbingly, our findings highlight a troubling trend where minor disagreements escalate into mob violence against non-Muslim communities. Incidents include attacks on Hindu processions and social media threats, resulting in injuries, attacks on police officers, and damage to public and private property. The tragic loss of lives in districts like Akola and Nanded has ignited widespread anger among the Hindu community.

Equally worrisome is the issue of grooming and forceful conversions. While Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, reports indicate that some Muslim extremists engage in deceptive tactics, coercion, and grooming to convert non-Muslims. Influential televangelists play a role in motivating these actions, leading to incidents like ‘Love jihad,’ where individuals are tricked into conversion.

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a longstanding concern, impacting both urban and rural areas in Maharashtra. Disturbingly, co-religionists within the state are reportedly supporting illegal immigrants in obtaining forged documents. Beyond economic implications, this raises serious questions about demographic changes and has sparked resentment among the non-Muslim population.

The specter of terrorism looms large, challenging Maharashtra’s progressive image. The National Investigation Agency’s revelation of an ISIS module operating within the state is deeply troubling. Extremists from Mumbai, Pune, and Thane subscribing to violent ideologies have been apprehended, exposing a potential threat to the safety of non-Muslims. The involvement of individuals with advanced education, like a renowned anesthesiologist, underscores the complexity of the issue.

Addressing these challenges requires a multi-pronged approach, involving both law enforcement and community engagement. Maharashtra’s citizens must come together to condemn violence, promote religious tolerance, and work towards a secure and harmonious coexistence. The state’s authorities must redouble efforts to maintain law and order, counter illegal activities, and ensure the safety of all residents, regardless of their religious affiliations. The collective responsibility of citizens and authorities alike is paramount in securing a peaceful and inclusive future for Maharashtra.

The report’s findings shed light on the evolving trend where unpleasant acts trigger mob violence, particularly against non-Muslim groups. Minor disagreements between youths of different faiths, attacks on Hindu processions, and violent reactions to allegedly offensive DJ songs during religious processions highlight a concerning pattern. In 14 reported incidents across Maharashtra, hundreds of non-Muslims were injured, police officers attacked, public property vandalized, and non-Muslim homes ransacked. Tragically, two Hindus lost their lives in Akola and Nanded, intensifying the anger among the Hindu community.

The report underscores the severe threat posed by Muslim extremists to Maharashtra’s social fabric. Well-planned acts of aggression fuel communal tensions, and any disregard by decision-makers could have devastating consequences. It is imperative for Maharashtra’s leaders to confront and address the rising specter of extremism promptly. The state’s renowned police force must play a pivotal role in maintaining law and order, while political and intellectual leaders must work collectively to foster harmony and preserve the diverse essence of Maharashtra.

Demos report indicates According to our findings, Muslim extremists pose a severe threat to the social fabric of a diverse society in Maharashtra. Muslim extremists engage in well-planned and concentrated acts of aggression that lead to communal tensions. Any attempt by decision-makers to disregard the truth will have devastating consequences in the future. It is high time for Maharashtra’s decision-makers to respond to Muslim extremism.

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