Indian officials step up arrests, demolish homes to stem riots over anti-Islamic speech


SRINAGAR/KOLKATA, India, June 12 (Reuters) – Authorities in India’s Uttar Pradesh state have demolished the homes of several people accused of involvement in unrest over the past week, prompted by derogatory comments by ruling party figures about the Islamic one Prophet Mohammed, officials said on Sunday.

In Indian Kashmir, police arrested a youth for posting a video threatening to behead the former ruling party spokeswoman who made some of the remarks, officials said. The video distributed on YouTube was withdrawn by the authorities.

Muslims have taken to the streets across India in recent weeks to protest anti-Islamic remarks by two members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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Clashes erupted between Muslims and Hindus and in some cases between protesters and police in several areas. Police in Uttar Pradesh have arrested more than 300 people in connection with the unrest. Continue reading

Some members of India’s Muslim minority see the comments as the latest example of pressure and humiliation under BJP rule on issues ranging from freedom of religion to the wearing of hijab headscarves.

The BJP has suspended its spokeswoman Nupur Sharma and expelled another leader, Naveen Kumar Jindal, for the comments, which have also sparked a diplomatic row with several Muslim countries.

Police have filed charges against the two and the government has said the comments do not reflect their views.

Muslim groups have called for their arrest, while some hard-line Hindu groups describe them as brave and nationalist politicians.

Over the weekend, Uttar Pradesh state chief Yogi Adityanath ordered officials to demolish all illegal establishments and homes of people accused of involvement in the unrest there last week, BJP state spokesman said.

The home of a suspected mastermind of the riots, whose daughter is a Muslim activist, was demolished on Sunday amid heavy police presence. The state also had the properties demolished by two other people accused of throwing rocks after Friday prayers.

Mrityunjay Kumar, Adityanath’s media adviser, tweeted a photo of a bulldozer demolishing a building and said: “Recalcitrant elements remember, every Friday is followed by Saturday.”

Opposition leaders said the Adityanath government was using an unconstitutional method to silence protesters.

On Sunday, Jindal said his family faced constant threats and some of his supporters said a crude bomb had been defused near his home in the capital New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not yet commented on the communal unrest.

In the eastern state of West Bengal, authorities enforced an emergency law banning public gatherings in the Howrah industrial zone until April 16.

The BJP president in West Bengal staged a sit-in protest on Sunday, accusing neighboring Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim nation, of inciting violence in the state.

Last week, countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran – which are major trading partners of India – staged diplomatic protests to demand an apology from Modi’s government for the comments.

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Additional reporting by Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar, Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow; Writing from Neha Arora, Rupam Jain; Edited by Kim Coghill and Angus MacSwan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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