Police in north-west India ban public gatherings and shut down internet after Hindu deaths

MUMBAI, June 29 (Reuters) – Police in India’s Rajasthan state banned public gatherings and shut down internet services over fears of religious violence, a day after two Muslims posted a video claiming responsibility for the killing of a Hindu tailor in India of the city of Udaipur took over.

Two suspects were questioned by federal investigators on Wednesday while state police were on the alert for unrest in the state’s northwest.

“We have strict orders to prevent any form of protest or demonstration planned to condemn the killing,” Hawa Singh Ghumaria, a senior Rajasthan police official, told Reuters, adding that the crime sent “shockwaves through the… country”.

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Wielding a meat cleaver, two bearded men in the video said they would avenge an insult to Prophet Mohammad caused by the victim.

They also alluded to Nupur Sharma, a former spokeswoman for the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose comments about the Prophet sparked national and international outrage earlier this month.

India’s Interior Minister Amit Shah tweeted that the federal police had taken over the investigation into the “brutal murder” of Kanhaiya Lal Teli and gave the victim’s full name.

“The involvement of any organization and international connections will be thoroughly investigated,” Shah said.

Late Wednesday, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry dismissed reports in some Indian media outlets linking the suspects to a Pakistan-based organization.

According to Bhawarlal Thoda, a city manager in Udaipur, the two attackers had slashed Teli’s head and throat in an attack while the tailor was taking measurements.

According to Thoda, the tailor had been arrested over a social media post in support of the BJP spokeswoman, which was traced to his mobile phone, and that after his release Teli told police on June 15 that he was being threatened by a group .

“Terrorists executed my father in the most shocking way, the country must stand by our family to demand justice,” the victim’s son, Yash, told Reuters after his father’s body was cremated on Wednesday.

He said those responsible should be brought to justice and sentenced to death, and denied that his father made any comments that would offend other religions.

Politicians and prominent Islamic preachers condemned the murder.

“The incident has shocked the followers of Islam, the heinous act committed by two men is absolutely un-Islamic,” said Maulana Ahmed Siddiqui, a Muslim cleric based in Udaipur.


Authorities said they shut down internet services in several parts of Rajasthan to prevent the video from spreading.

“The mood is tense and almost all shops are closed today,” said Thoda. The city of around half a million people is one of the desert state’s main tourist attractions and is known for its luxurious hotels, including the well-known Taj Lake Palace.

In another video clip posted online, one of the attackers also threatened Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying her blade would find him too.

The federal government late Wednesday called on social media platforms to immediately remove content that incites, glorifies, or justifies killing.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement that the removal was necessary “to prevent any incitement and disturbance of public order and to restore public peace and harmony.”

Hardline Hindu organizations staged protests in the capital, New Delhi, to condemn the killing of Teli, and more protests were planned for Thursday.

India has a long history of religious violence, and thousands of people have been killed since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

Modi’s push for a “Hindu first” agenda since taking office in 2014 has fueled tensions in a country where Muslims make up about 13% of its 1.4 billion people.

Earlier this month, the BJP suspended Sharma from the party and expelled another official, but excitement has not abated.

Modi did not comment on the Udaipur incident. But former Rajasthan Prime Minister Vasundhara Raje, who is part of the BJP, blamed the “communal frenzy and violence” that has ensued on the Congress party, which now runs the state.

Raje said “acts like this can happen because the state government silently supports criminals.”

While Congress has championed secular values ​​since India’s independence, the BJP has portrayed it as a pro-Muslim party to divert Hindus from their main opposition.

Rajasthan, with a population of around 69 million, is just one of two Indian states where Congress holds a majority in the state legislature and is due to hold elections next year.

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Reporting by Rupam Jain; Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Rajendra Jadhav; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore, Alex Richardson and Tomasz Janowski

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