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Police detain 15 for religious clashes after inauguration of India’s Ram temple

Police in India detained 15 people in connection with religious violence that broke out ahead of the inauguration of a Hindu temple on the site of an illegally razed mosque in the northern city of Ayodhya.

This comes in addition to the 13 who were detained after violence in India’s financial capital Mumbai on Sunday.

The accused were allegedly pelting stones at vehicles bearing saffron flags headed for a procession ahead of the consecration of a temple devoted to the Hindu god Ram, reported Hindustan Times.

Religious violence of varying scales were reported from different parts of India, a day after prime minister Narendra Modi presided over the consecration ceremony of the temple that is built on the ruins of a 16th-century mosque, Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, also believed to be the birthplace of one of the most revered Hindu deities.

Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other right-wing groups portrayed the project as central to their vision of reclaiming Hindu pride. They see the temple as a sign of Hindu reawakening from centuries of foreign subjugation, including rule by Muslim dynasties such as the Mughals, and British colonialism.

Ahead of the ceremony, a mob of 50-60 people pelted stones on vehicles that were part of the procession in Mumbai, while one person attacked the participants with a knife, said the police. At least 24 were injured in the incident. The police in Mumbai have registered a case of attempt to murder against the mob as it investigates the matter.

“I was in constant touch with the Mira-Bhyander Police Commissioner till 3.30am on Monday,” said Devendra Fandanavis, Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister.

“Police have been instructed to take strict action against the accused. In this case, 13 accused have been detained so far and the process of identifying the other accused is underway by checking the CCTV footage. Anyone trying to disrupt law and order in Maharashtra will not be tolerated," the BJP leader said.

On Tuesday, the civic authorities bulldozed at least 15 structures in the area where the violence was earlier reported.

“There were illegal structures on nullah and on footpaths,” Maruti Gaikwad, deputy municipal commissioner in Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation, told Scroll.in. While no notice were given to those whose homes were demolished, the outlet added that the homes do not belong to those arrested in the violence that earlier broke out.

The police said that the demolition of illegal structures are routine activity and they are not legally required to issue notice.

However, social activist Saad Syed says that the demolition drive in the Muslim dominated community is aimed at sending out a “particular” message to them.

“Close to a dozen structures have been demolished. As far as we know, no notices were served. Even if notices were served, what message is being sent by demolishing structures of a particular community a day after the communal clash,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express. “Are illegal structures present only in a particular community’s locality?”

In the southern Indian state of Telangana, a procession celebrating the Ram temple threw sandals into a mosque, while some burnt crackers, reported The Quint, citing a preliminary police report.

“The procession entered a small lane and stood in front of the masjid located there. They played music on DJ and burst crackers, and also blew some papers which entered the mosque through the windows. After the procession left, local Muslims came to the police station and registered a complaint,” Mr Srinivas, a police officer at Kosgi police station, told the outlet.

However, police have so far not detained anyone in the matter.

In Bihar, another procession celebrating the consecration threw firecrackers inside a Muslim graveyard. At least 12 people were named in the preliminary police report, Rani Kumari, a police officer in Keoti told The Quint.