RANCHI ~ The capital of Jharkhand saw unusual protests on Friday, 10 August. More than 100 youths in skull caps took to the roads after evening prayers at a local mosque. They were protesting against the alleged genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The demonstration baffled local authorities because the protests were directed against neither the state government nor the Centre. To make things worse, the group turned violent—attacking shops as well as civilians, women and street vendors.
At the same time, another group—comprising girls from local colleges and schools—was holding a demonstration at the town square. One of their placards read, ‘Humaare kapde nahi, apni soch badlo (Change your thinking, not our clothes).’ They were protesting against the Jharkhand Mukti Sangh, a local right-wing group that had warned girls of acid attacks if they wore jeans and tops. However, when these girls saw the rampaging crowd advance towards the square, they quit their protest and were gone in seconds.
It was only then that the local police came into action and restored peace. By the time it all ended, three people— including a police officer—had been injured. Later, an unapologetic member of the Myanmar protest group told a newspaper that they took to the streets—smashing cars and breaking shop windows—only after they were told not to conduct their march.
“Most of these hooligans were in their 20s and wouldn’t know the correct spelling of Myanmar. Even fewer would know that the name of the country has changed from Burma to Myanmar. Their placards said ‘Burma’. Someone must have instigated them. Thank God a tragedy was averted,” says Sandeep Chhawchharia, a local who has witnessed several communal riots in the city.
That very evening, however, the town square transformed into a place of festivity. Thousands turned up to celebrate Janmashtami.
The violence a couple of hours ago and Muslims of Myanmar were forgotten.▪