- SAURABH SHARMA and FAYAZ BUKHARI
Police confronted stone-throwing mobs in at least two Indian cities on Friday as crowds demonstrated in many parts of the country following derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad made by two former members of the ruling party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced a backlash from Muslims at home and abroad, including a number of Gulf countries, after two officials from his Bharatiya Janata party commented late May and earlier this month the private life of the Prophet.
Demonstrators clash with police during a protest demanding the arrest of Bharatiya Janata party member Nupur Sharma for his comments on the Prophet Muhammad, in Prayagraj, India, June 10. PHOTO: Reuters/Ritesh Shukla
One of them, spokesperson Nupur Sharma, was suspended and the other official was expelled by the party.
That has not quelled anger in the latest example of what some members of the minority Muslim community see as increased pressure under the rule of Hindu nationalist BJP on issues ranging from freedom of worship to wearing the hijab headscarf.
In the town of Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, riot police with shields loaded and fired tear gas into crowds on Friday in a street strewn with broken bricks and stones, video footage from the partner of Reuters ANI.
A total of 109 people have been arrested in different districts of Uttar Pradesh by police for their alleged roles in today’s protests, said Prashant Kumar, a senior Uttar Pradesh police official.
In Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, protesters threw stones at police and injured officers, senior police official Anis Gupta told Reuters by telephone, adding that the situation was now under control.
Protests in other cities and towns have remained peaceful.
In the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, small groups gathered in dozens of places, some of them brandishing slogans against sacked BJP officials.
Authorities in the restive territory, also claimed by neighboring Pakistan, have cut mobile internet connections to prevent any violence, a police official said.
Muslims take part in a protest demanding the arrest of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Nupur Sharma for his comments on the Prophet Muhammad, in Kolkata, India on June 10. PHOTO: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri.
In Ahmedabad, the main city in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, protesters including children marched holding posters of the two BJP officials and calling on police to arrest Sharma.
“So far, no strict action has been taken against Nupur Sharma,” said protester Mohammad Jabir. “She should be arrested as soon as possible.”
Sharma was unavailable for comment. She said last week that she had no intention of hurting anyone’s religious feelings.
New Delhi police said on Thursday they filed a complaint against Sharma and others for “inciting division” on social media.
The BJP asked officials to be “extremely careful” when discussing religion on public platforms and said it does not promote slurs against any sect or religion.