Holi is a Hindu festival of colors and is celebrated across India with great enthusiasm. Numerous cases of violence, molestation, and harassment of women and minorities during March 7 and 8 when Holi was celebrated in various parts of the country came to light on social media. While “Bura na mano Holi Hai” (Don’t feel bad, it’s Holi) is used to justify all such nefarious behaviors, where women are most frequently the target, the celebration of Holi in India is frequently tarnished by incidences of molestation and harassment. However, in recent years, the festival has been marred by incidents of violence, particularly against women belonging to minority and marginalized communities.
This year, violence against women during the festivities of Holi emerged in the news of the incident met out to a Japanese woman. However, this was not the only incident of violence against women that took place at the festival of Holi. Other incidents with rather less to no reportage were the attacks to Muslim women and those belonging to marginalized communities. Over the years incidents of violence against women during Holi reek of not just communal but recently racial tensions.
‘I Was Terrified’: Japanese Woman Tweets After Being Assaulted During Holi
Recently, a video of a group of Indian men assaulting a Japanese woman in Delhi during the Holi celebrations went viral online. The woman responded to the incident on Twitter, calling it “unfortunate” and clarifying that her purpose was not to “defame the festival.” In a series of tweets roughly translated from Japanese, the woman wrote, “I had heard that it was very dangerous for a woman to go out alone during the daytime at the Holi festival, an Indian festival that I participated in, so I participated in the event with a total of 35 other friends. Unfortunately, this kind of situation happened…”
In the video, the men are seen smearing color on a Japanese woman and groping her. One of them even smashes an egg on her head. Before she manages to step away, the woman slaps one of the men who tried to grab her.
The foreign national who had tweeted the video on Thursday quickly deleted it. She claimed she “deleted the tweet” because she “was terrified” by the responses to the video. She posted in Japanese, “On March 9, I tweeted a video of Holi, but after that, the number of RTs and DMs surged more than I had anticipated, and I was afraid, so I deleted the tweet. She continued by saying that she had no intention of “conveying the abnormalities and damages of the Holi festival in India.”
In response to the footage, the police detained three people, among them a minor, in connection with the event. The police have pledged to intensify their investigation, and the woman expressed hope that harassment of women would considerably diminish.
The Under-reported Crimes- Minor Muslim Girls Raped in Bihar during Holi
This Holi, two minor girls were raped by 2 men including the son of an ex-sarpanch in the Begusarai district of Bihar. Once news broke that two girls, aged 6 and 7, had reportedly been sexually assaulted by the son of a previous Sarpanch while others were playing Holi, the Begusarai district of Bihar was anxious. The girls are from a different community than the accused, who is a Hindu, according to the press statement. The accused Rajkumar alias Chhotu Mahato and his companion approached the minors as they were playing in a school near Panchdir Chowk, according to Begusarai police. The accused had both been drinking. After they raped the two minors, they fled the scene.
Other Incidents of Violence against Women and Minorities
In a separate incident, a 65-year-old woman in the eastern state of Jharkhand was beaten to death by a group of six people for allegedly stopping them from applying colors to her son. The incident happened during Holi when the woman, who has been identified as Bucchi Devi, got into a fight with the group and forbade them from painting her kid Murari with colors. According to the local police, the group beat the woman and her son until they both passed out. Murari woke up to see his mother laying dead, according to accounts.
In another incident, a video was circulated on social media showing a lone Sikh man being attacked during the festivities of Holi. The disturbing visuals showed him being beaten and his turban being torn off.
History of Violence Against Women during Holi Festivities
In some parts of India, Holi has been used as a pretext to attack Muslim communities. In 2018, a video surfaced on social media showing a group of men in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district, throwing color and attacking Muslim women, while chanting religious slogans. The violence is not limited to physical assault but also includes sexual harassment and molestation.
The incidents of violence against women during Holi are a reflection of the larger problem of violence against women in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2019, there were 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women reported in India. These included rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and dowry-related violence.
The government has taken several measures to address the issue of violence against women, including setting up fast-track courts to hear cases of sexual assault and harassment. The government has also launched a national helpline for women in distress. However, these measures have not been enough to curb the violence against women, particularly during festivals like Holi. It is important for the government and civil society to work together to address the underlying social and cultural attitudes that perpetuate violence against women.
The festival of Holi, traditionally a celebration of spring and love, has unfortunately become a time when women are targeted for sexual harassment and assault. The Indian government has taken steps to address violence against women, including the introduction of stricter laws and the establishment of special courts to handle cases of sexual violence. However, implementation and enforcement of these measures remain a challenge, and cultural attitudes toward gender and religion continue to perpetuate violence against women.
The nature of this violence is deeply concerning and highlights the intersectional discrimination faced by Muslim women in India. Not only are they vulnerable to gender-based violence, but they also face religious and communal hostility, which can exacerbate their situation. It is important to acknowledge and condemn all forms of violence against women, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Muslim women, in particular, considering their unacknowledged minority status deserve to live in a society where they can freely practice their religion and move out of their homes without fear of harassment or discrimination.