The murder of a Hindu tailor has inflamed religious tensions in India and sparked strong reactions on social networks with calls for revenge against the Muslim minority.
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Two Muslims were arrested after this murder, which occurred on Tuesday June 28 in the city of Udaipur (west). It was allegedly committed in retaliation for recent statements about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, by a spokeswoman for the ruling Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Footage showing the attack and attempted beheading of Kanhaiya Lal has gone viral on the internet. They also show the suspected perpetrators brandishing large knives and threatening to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist.
India has long been plagued by inter-religious violence and in order to prevent the situation from escalating, the authorities have cut all internet connections and imposed a curfew in Udaipur. But social media is rife with angry reactions, with some users calling for violent reprisals against suspected killers and Muslims. On Telegram, groups dedicated to the defense of Hinduism have called for taking up arms, attacking Muslims or even discussing the interest of an assault on the police station where the two alleged murderers are. On social media, the far-right Hindu organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) called for demonstrations across the country against Islamist terrorism and claimed that Muslims have regularly offended the religious feelings of the majority religion by India.
“Hindu lives matter»
“Fear the day when Hindus start to respond to insults the same way“, threatened in a video message, Surendra Kumar Jain, figurehead of the VHP, in a video posted online and watched nearly 75,000 times on Twitter and Facebook. The strongest statements, however, came from Muslim communities who condemned the killing. “There is no room for justification of violence in Islam“Wrote the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, one of the six Muslim organizations based in India while calling for calm.
In the aftermath of the murder, Kanhaiya Lal’s name was mentioned more than 200,000 times on Twitter and numerous hashtags condemned the attack. The hashtag “Hindu lives matter(Hindu Lives Matter) had been posted more than 2,000 times per hour on Thursday. Kanhaiya Lal had been targeted after posting a message on Facebook in support of Nupur Sharma, a BJP spokeswoman who in a televised debate criticized the relationship between the Prophet Muhammad and his youngest wife, Aisha.
Nupur Sharma, whose statements had led to demonstrations degenerating into violence in certain regions of India (at least two dead) and protests throughout the Muslim world, was expelled from the BJP. Since coming to power in 2014, Narendra Modi’s party has been accused by human rights organizations and foreign governments of championing policies that discriminate against India’s 200 million strong Muslim minority.
In June, Amnesty International claimed that the authorities had carried out a crackdown “violentagainst Muslims who demonstrated against Nupur Sharma’s remarks, including demolishing houses with bulldozers. Since the killing of Kanhaiya Lal, party members have taken to social media to blame Muslim countries who complained about the BJP spokeswoman’s comments for not coming out with statements about the attack.
Several also lashed out at Indian journalist Mohammed Zubair who helped draw attention to Nupur Sharma’s remarks. In a tweet, Kapil Mishra, a BJP elected official, accused the journalist and his supporters of being “responsibleof the tailor’s death. Mohammed Zubair has frequently denounced hate speech by Hindu groups on the internet. He was arrested in New Delhi on Monday after being summoned for questioning in an earlier case. He remains in custody, with police citing a four-year-old tweet about a Hindu god. According to her, he has been the subject of complaints from Hindu organizations. Police opened an investigation into Nupur Sharma following a complaint about her remarks but she has not been arrested and her current whereabouts are unknown.
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