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Indian authorities step up arrests and demolish homes to end unrest over anti-Islamic remarks

SRINAGAR/KOLKATA, India, June 12 (Reuters) – Authorities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have demolished the homes of several people accused of taking part in last week’s riots sparked by derogatory remarks by ruling party figures about Islam’s prophet Muhammad, 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, posted on YouTube, was removed by 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. Uttar Pradesh police have arrested more than 300 people in connection with the unrest. Read more

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

The BJP suspended its spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled another leader, Naveen Kumar Jindal, over the remarks, which also sparked a diplomatic row with several Muslim countries.

Police filed charges against the two and the government said the comments did not reflect its views.

Muslim groups have demanded their arrest, while some extremist Hindu groups call them brave and nationalist politicians.

Over the weekend, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, Yogi Adityanath, ordered the authorities to demolish all illegal establishments and homes of those accused of taking part in the riots last week, he said. said the BJP spokesperson.

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

Adityanath Media Adviser Mrityunjay Kumar tweeted a photo of a bulldozer tearing down a building and said, “The unruly elements remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday.”

Opposition leaders said Adityanath’s government was pursuing an unconstitutional method to silence the protesters.

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

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

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

The BJP chairman in West Bengal staged a sit-in protest on Sunday and accused neighboring Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country, of inciting violence in the state.

Last week, countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran – which are India’s key trading partners – filed diplomatic protests demanding an apology from the government of Modi for these comments.

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

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