The Foreign Office (FO) on Wednesday “categorically rejected” Indian insinuations linking a Pakistani organisation to the suspects involved in the alleged murder of a Hindu tailor in Udaipur.
“We have seen reports in a segment of the Indian media referring to investigations into the murder case in Udaipur, mischievously seeking to link the accused individuals, Indian nationals, to an organisation in Pakistan,” the FO said.
“We categorically reject any such insinuations, which are typical of the BJP-RSS ‘Hindutva’ driven Indian regime’s attempts at maligning Pakistan including by externalising their internal issues through pointing fingers towards Pakistan,” it added.
“Such malicious attempts will not succeed in misleading the people, either in India or abroad,” the FO said.
Hundreds of police were deployed in the Indian city of Udaipur after the murder of a Hindu tailor allegedly by two Muslims in revenge for inflammatory comments about Islam by a ruling party member.
The attack — in which the men seemingly tried to behead their victim — was captured on video that went viral and has gripped a country with a long history of communal violence.
The video showed Kanhaiya Lal being attacked in his shop, with further footage showing the two accused purportedly brandishing large knives and threatening to kill Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
They then justified their murder as a response to Lal’s alleged support of derogatory comments about Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) by a spokeswoman for Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party, Nupur Sharma.
The remarks by Nupur Sharma at a TV debate in late May sparked protests that turned violent in some parts of India and demonstrations across the Islamic world.
According to the Hindustan Times, an investigation had revealed that the suspects — who have been arrested — had links to “Karachi-based Sunni Islamist organisation Dawat-e-Islami, which has links with Barelvi pan-Islamic Tehreek-i-Labbaik extremist organisation in Pakistan”.
Lockdown in Udaipur
Hundreds gathered outside Lal’s house ahead of his funeral on Wednesday, a day after several hundred protested and chanted Hindu slogans in response to the killing.
People on motorcycles and cars waved saffron flags — the colour of the Hindu faith — and shouted slogans demanding the death penalty for the accused.
“Hang them, hang them. My husband has gone,” the man’s distraught widow told reporters.
“If the law doesn’t want to do anything, give them to us so that we can kill them,” said another relative.
The two young men were arrested on Tuesday as they attempted to flee Udaipur by motorbike, news reports said.
The central National Investigation Agency (NIA) said that the men circulated the video “in order to trigger panic and strike terror among the masses across the country”.
To prevent potential sectarian violence, authorities deployed 600 extra police and put the city of around 450,000 people under curfew, cutting mobile internet access there and in other parts of Rajasthan state.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot appealed to people not to share the video as it would “serve the attackers’ motive of creating discord in society”.
“The involvement of any organisation and international links will be thoroughly investigated,” Indian Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted.
Indian Muslim organisations condemned the killing, but Surendra Kumar Jain from the far-right Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad said that many Muslim leaders have “insulted Hindu beliefs”.
“You should be afraid of the day when Hindus too start giving reply to the insult in the same coin,” Jain said in a video message.
A demonstration in New Delhi called by a far-right Hindu group drew around 100 people shouting slogans.
The derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) by BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma at a TV debate in late May sparked protests that turned violent in some parts of India and demonstrations across the Islamic world.
She was sacked by the party after her comments, which prompted the governments of nearly 20 countries to summon their Indian envoys to express their displeasure.
Lal’s wife told broadcaster NDTV that on June 10 her husband was arrested over a social media post supporting Sharma and released on bail a day later.
Five days later the father of two said he had received death threats but on Tuesday returned to work in his shop, she said.
The purported video of the killing — which police have not yet confirmed is genuine — showed Lal measuring one of the men for new clothes before he and his accomplice attacked him.
India has seen sporadic sectarian violence between majority Hindus and Muslims, who make up around 14 per cent of the 1.4 billion-strong population.
Religious riots in the capital New Delhi left 53 people dead in 2020, while in 2013 another 62 were killed in the nearby city of Muzaffarnagar.
In 2002 at least 1,000 were killed in violence in Gujarat — at the time led by then state premier Modi. Most of the victims were Muslims.
Rajasthan also saw riots earlier this year, when almost 100 people were arrested after police fired tear gas to stop fighting and stone-pelting.
Modi’s party has been accused of marginalising the Muslim community and sowing divisions with Hindus since coming to power in 2014.
The row over Sharma’s comments followed anger across the Muslim world in 2020 after France’s president defended the right of a satirical magazine to publish blasphemous sketches of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).