Religion Gone Wrong: What Violent Kanwariyas Say About India’s Youth

Social Commentary

Religion Gone Wrong: What Violent Kanwariyas Say About India’s Youth

Illustration: Akshita Monga

B

ack in 2012, during the month of July a large group of devout Hindus entered Bareilly on the back of trucks, bikes, and jeeps spewing loud music and chaos into the lives of the locals. In the communal clashes that followed, three people lost their lives. Five years later, in 2017, Bareilly was again under lockdown, this time for other incidents of violence and FIRs were filed against nearly 250 people. This year, many locals – most of them Muslim – have fled their villages fearing implication in violence that has now become as normalised as the sight of the saffron-clad Kanwariya causing it.

Not too long ago, the Kanwar Yatra was a peaceful profession of a few thousand devotees who passed through cities through pre-planned routes, like Jhandewalan in Delhi. They caused the odd traffic jam, but largely kept to themselves. This peaceful march has now turned into a mammoth exhibition of wild and aggressive religiosity. More than 20 million men now make the Kanwar Yatra through the Gangetic plains of North India during the month of Sawan. Trucks and “shivirs” every couple hundred metres along the route in Delhi, meant to provide refreshment and rest, blare loud music and feature spontaneous dances.

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