MUMBAI, June 29 (Reuters) – Fearing outbreaks of religious violence, police in the Indian state of Rajasthan have banned public gatherings and suspended internet services a day after two Muslims posted a video claiming responsibility for the murder of a Hindu tailor in the city of Udaipur.
Two suspects were being questioned by federal investigators on Wednesday, while state police were on guard against any unrest in the northwest state.
“We are under 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 had sent “waves of shock across the country”.
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Brandishing a meat cleaver, two bearded men said in the video that they were avenging an insult to the Prophet Muhammad caused by the victim.
They also alluded to Nupur Sharma, a former spokeswoman for the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose remarks about the prophet earlier this month sparked national and international outrage.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said in a tweet that the Federal Police had taken over the investigation into the “brutal murder” of Kanhaiya Lal Teli, giving the full name of the victim.
“The involvement of any organization and international links will be thoroughly investigated,” Shah said.
Late Wednesday, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry dismissed reports from some Indian media that linked the suspects to a Pakistan-based organization.
The two assailants had lacerated Teli’s head and throat in an attack as the tailor took action, according to Bhawarlal Thoda, a city administrator in Udaipur.
According to Thoda, the tailor was arrested for a social media post in support of the BJP spokeswoman which was traced to his cell phone, and that after being released 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 with our family to demand justice,” the victim’s son, Yash, told Reuters after his father’s body was cremated. Wednesday.
He said the culprits should be tried and sentenced to death, and denied that his father made any remarks that would be offensive to other religions.
Politicians and prominent Islamic preachers have condemned the killing.
“The incident 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.
THREAT TO MODI
Authorities said they suspended internet services in several parts of Rajasthan to prevent the video from being broadcast.
“The mood is tense and almost all stores are closed today,” Thoda said. The city of around half a million people is one of the desert state’s top tourist attractions and is known for its luxury hotels, including the famous Taj Lake Palace.
In another video clip posted online, one of the attackers also threatened Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying their blade would find him too.
On Wednesday evening, the federal government asked social media platforms to immediately remove content that encourages, glorifies or justifies murder.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a notice that the withdrawal was necessary “to prevent incitement and disturbance of public order and to restore public peace and harmony”.
Extremist Hindu organizations staged protests in the capital New Delhi to condemn Teli’s killing and further 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 pursuit of a “Hindu first” agenda since coming to power in 2014 has stoked 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 the fury has not died down.
Modi did not comment on the Udaipur incident. But former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who belongs to the BJP, blamed the Congress Party, which now rules the state, for the “communal frenzy and violence” that erupted there.
Raje said that “such acts may occur because the state government provides tacit support to criminals.”
While the Congress has championed secular values in India since independence, the BJP has cast it as a pro-Muslim party in order to alienate Hindus from its 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; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Alex Richardson and Tomasz Janowski
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