Internet services have been suspended in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, while in the city of Udaipur, a curfew is in place over fears of retaliatory communal violence following the killing of a Hindu tailor, allegedly by two Muslim men.
Following their arrests, the suspects reportedly said that they killed the Hindu man because he insulted the Prophet Muhammad by supporting Indian politician Nupur Sharma and sharing a related post in social media.
Sharma, a spokesperson of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), made controversial comments about the Prophet Muhammad last month. Sharma’s remarks triggered a diplomatic storm, with many Islamic countries condemning the comments and registering protests against India. The BJP then suspended her from the party.
Kanhaiya Lal, the tailor, was briefly detained by police after sharing the controversial tweet earlier this month and had been receiving death threats from unknown people since then. His family on Wednesday criticized police for not providing him with protection.
The Indian government has sent a special team of the National Investigation Agency, the country’s anti-terrorism agency, to look into whether the killing was linked to any terrorist group.
On Tuesday, tensions climbed when two video clips of Lal’s killing went viral on social media.
One of the clips, allegedly made by his killers, shows the two men attacking him with cleavers. In the other, the two men allegedly declare that they have beheaded the tailor and threaten Prime Minister Modi, while brandishing the cleavers.
One of the two men also allegedly said in the video, “We live for the Prophet Muhammad, as we are ready to die for him. … Listen, Narendra Modi, you lit the fire, but we will douse it and, if God is willing, our daggers will reach your neck soon, too.”
A senior Rajasthan police official urged the media to stop showing the video because it is “too ghastly to watch.”
Hindu nationalists are calling on the Muslim suspects to be treated as terrorists and hanged. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said on Twitter that the case will be handled by a special investigation team and “speedier justice and strict punishment” will be ensured.
“Please stay calm and don’t help serve the assailants’ motive of spreading discord in the country,” Gehlot said.
The tailor’s killing has been widely condemned by Muslims, with many calling the act completely “un-Islamic.”
India’s largest Islamic organization, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, called the killing “barbaric” and “uncivilized.”
“There is no room for justification of violence in Islam. … We strongly condemn it. No citizen should take law in his own hands,” a tweet from the organization said.
New Delhi-based Muslim community leader Zafarul-Islam Khan said that the Udaipur killing is “completely illegal and deplorable.”
“The criminals must be appropriately punished but a minute probe is also necessary to uncover the conspiracy behind the killing. … The probe must also focus on who benefits from this crime. It flows into the polarization politics and demonizes Muslims,” Khan told VOA.
Another Muslim community leader, Syed Azharuddin, described the killing as “inhuman” and “un-Islamic.”
“We strongly condemn this killing. The culprits should be dealt with strictly, through the legal process,” Azharuddin told VOA.
“Let us not forget that the Quran teaches us saving a human is equivalent to saving entire humanity vis-a-vis killing a human is equivalent to killing entire humanity.”