Civil society has pointed out that the idea of Hindutva supremacy is being carried out through radicalisation of youth, who have found employment through these violent acts.

Speaking at the release of a fact-finding by the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) who visited Bihar following large-scale communal violence that took place during and around the Ram Navami rally last month, Delhi University professor Apoorvanand said, “In these processions many young boys take part and their age range varies from 10-year-old to 20-year-old. The authorities have meanwhile claimed that these young people also had swords in their hands.”

Apoorvanand said that one can witness the criminalisation of Hindu festivals and based on its findings, the report said that the violence reflected “the total failure of administrative duties and lack of preparedness” by the JD(U)-RJD government. “From a wider perspective the incident ruined the social fabric of India by depicting Hindutva supremacy,” he added.

The APCR team included advocate Mohammad Moboshshir Aneeq, senior journalist Prashant Tandon, advocate Saiful Islam, social activist Gulrez Anjum, advocate Nasiquz Zaman, advocate, and social activist Mohammad Zahid who visited Bihar Sharif and Sasaram districts. They recorded statements of families affected by the Ram Navami’s procession in the aftermath of violence.

“We want to appeal to the Hindu community, especially on behalf of the kids who are being radicalised and criminalised. We also appeal to the political leaders that not only ask vote from the people but also try their best to stop such activities,” Apoorvanand added.

On March 31, violence broke out in Nalanda's Biharsharif town on Friday when a large procession of Ram Navami was passing through areas with the minority population. The pre-planned procession started from Shram Kalyan and concluded three kilometres away at Maniram ka Akhada.

As violence broke out, a young Muslim boy succumbed to bullet injuries and several people were left injured. Following the incident, Section 144 was imposed in the affected areas and the internet was suspended. Further, a heavy police force was deployed.

The ACPR team, who visited the ground in its report said that in the aftermath of the violence, the Bihar police registered 20 First Information Reports (FIR) and arrested around 200 people. Out of 20 FIRs, 15 had been registered in Bihar Sharif. Several people had been arrested including the convenor of Bajrang Dal Kundan Kumar who was reportedly the mastermind of the communal riots.

The others who had been arrested include Rajnish Kumar, Dharmendra Kumar, Tushar Kumar, and Manish Kumar, all allegedly part of the WhatsApp group that delivered hate speech during the Ram Navami processions. According to the police, 457 people were part of the WhatsApp group.

Mobashshir Aneeq, Advocate referred to a 2018 report with recommendations, but noted that in 2023, there was a lack of on-ground implementation of the peace committee's directives. He highlighted that the violence caused significant damage, and questioned the silence of local politicians and the biassed actions of the police.

John Dayal, journalist and social activist highlighted the issue of Islamophobia, stating that it is a ticking time bomb that is destroying the country. He mentioned instances of schools and communities promoting Islamophobia, and the need for secularism and political action to counter the violence. He also stressed the importance of fact-finding and detoxifying the community from hatred.

“The politicisation of religious festivals, highly provocative and Islamophobic songs, and forced entry eventually resulted in communal conflagrations in the two districts of Bihar. Religious festivals nowadays have been completely taken over by RSS-BJP activists and fringe elements like Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) for communal polarisation,” the fact finding report further said.

Urmilesh, senior journalist said that while processions have been happening for decades, he has never seen something of this scale.

Explaining the pattern of violence, the ACPR fact-finding team in its report pointed out that Hindutva organisations approached the district administrations, asking for permissions for the Rama Navami processions, which were granted in many cases with terms and conditions.

“People – especially youth – riding on hundreds of motorbikes take out rallies, brandish brand-new swords and other weapons, and play highly objectionable/communal songs. Violating the terms and conditions, they try to enter Muslim-majority areas or deviate from the route that is objected to by the local Muslim population. As a result, stone pelting starts, and then shops and other properties belonging to a particular community are set on fire,” the report stated.

The team recommended that to avoid the further occurrence of such violence, the accountability of the public officials and elected representatives who participated, instigated and encouraged the riots be fixed and should they be given exemplary punishment as per the rule of law.

“The government should conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice. It is essential to hold the guilty accountable to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future. Further, the compensation should be granted to all the victims of the riots as per their damage/loss suffered,” professor Apoorvanand said.

The victim families are yet to receive any compensation, despite Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar averring that he will look into the matter.

“It is crucial that the government provides support to the victims and their families and takes measures to rebuild the affected areas. It is only through such collective efforts that we can prevent the recurrence of such incidents and promote a society that is inclusive, just, and peaceful for all,” the fact-finding report said.

Sanjay Hedge, Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court who was part of the panel, emphasised that private reports may not have an immediate impact, but they contribute to long-term change. “The struggle against memory and the powerful who do not want us to remember is ongoing. Change is needed not only in Bihar but across the country to achieve hope and liberty,” he added.

Meanwhile, a development audit report by the SPECT Foundation, a non-profit outfit, titled 'Marginalisation of Muslims in Ten Minority Concentration Districts: Bringing the Equity Question Back into the Political Discourse' was released that looked at the socio economic backwardness in ten minority concentration districts.

The report also addressed the narrative around the "rise of radical Islam" in many districts that lie on India's borders.

The chosen districts included Araria (Bihar), Purnea (Bihar), Kishanganj (Bihar), Katihar (Bihar), Dhubri (Assam), Kokrajhar (Assam), Shravasti (Uttar Pradesh), Balarampur (Uttar Pradesh), Malda (West Bengal), and Murshidabad (West Bengal).

The selected districts have close to 1.41 crore Muslim population, where the community represents 52% of the population of these districts. The report said that the choice of the districts was dictated by the fact that they have been targeted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for various reasons “including alleged population explosion and 'illegal infiltration' from neighbouring countries”.

The report also found evidence of “systematic discrimination against minorities in scheme distribution”.

The socioeconomic backwardness is further reflected in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) numbers. The report showed that between 2014-15 and 2020-21, “there was a greater demand for work in this region than the state average”. The situation got worse during the COVID pandemic.

The data also revealed that the Muslim population in these ten districts have remained more cut off from basic resources than other regions of the country, which puts into question the myth of 'appeasement of Muslims.'

The primary development parameters in four districts of Bihar portrayed an abysmal socioeconomic picture. The literacy rates are lower than the state average. Moreover, the student-teacher ratio in schools is much higher than the state average, indicating abysmal education infrastructure.

The literacy levels in both Balrampur and Shravasti are relatively lower compared with other districts. While the state average is 57.25%, it comes down to 49.51% in Balrampur and 37.89% in Shravasti.

The NFHS-5 data shows only 16.8% of women in Balrampur districts have completed 10 or more years of schooling. The state average is 39.3%. Shravasti also fares poorly when it comes to health infrastructure. It ranks as the poorest among all Uttar Pradesh districts.

The situation is similar in the two districts of Assam selected for the development audit. In Kokrajhar, “the number of functional lower primary schools has declined”.

The lack of universities in the district means that students often migrate for higher education. Both Kokrajhar and Dhubri have “poor infrastructure and poor health outcomes”.

The report also called out secular parties for succumbing to the “prejudiced and motivated appeasement bogey raised by the BJP”. As a result, the secular parties avoid addressing the issues concerning the marginalisation of Muslims.

"The socioeconomic marginalisation of Muslims is part of the larger process of persecution of the community. It is also against the basic ethos of democracy if a community is systematically left underdeveloped and affirmative actions for its social welfare are intentionally and vindictively stymied," the report stated.