Indian police made fresh arrests on Saturday in the murder of a Hindu tailor in Rajasthan, which had sparked tensions between the Hindu majority and Muslim minority and a clampdown on protests and the internet to prevent them from escalating.
Two Muslim men already under arrest for the murder, who filmed the act and posted it online, said it had been a response to the victim’s support for a politician’s derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The victim, Kanhaiya Lal Teli, had allegedly made a social media post supporting a former spokesperson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party who made anti-Islam comments in May.
Three senior police officials said on Saturday that two more Muslim men based in the northwestern state were being held for planning Teli’s murder last week in his shop in Udaipur, a popular tourist destination dotted with lakes and palace hotels.
“We have now arrested the two masterminds, and previously we had arrested two men who committed the heinous crime,” said Prafulla Kumar, a senior police official based in Udaipur.
Kumar said internet services were being gradually restored, and security forces continued to be on alert following the murder.
Judges from the Supreme Court of India stated on Friday that the ex-spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, must apologise to the whole nation after her remarks intensified religious fault lines in India, angered Islamic nations and triggered diplomatic strains.
Local media reported a separate incident that occurred on June 21 in which a chemist was stabbed to death in the western state of Maharashtra for allegedly supporting the remarks made by the BJP’s former spokesperson on social media.
“Five persons were arrested in connection with the murder of the chemist, and a search is on to trace the prime accused,” Aarti Singh, a chief regional police official, was quoted by local press as saying.
Singh said the reasons behind the murder were yet to be ascertained.
In India, at least two demonstrators were shot and killed by police during protests against Sharma’s comments.
In Afghanistan, the Daesh last month claimed an attack on a Sikh temple that killed at least two people and injured seven was in response to insults levelled at the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in India.
Police in New Delhi arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair, a vocal critic of the Modi government, who had helped draw attention to Sharma’s remarks through his fact-checking website Alt News and on social media.
The National Investigative Agency (NIA) — India’s top anti-terrorism agency — said it is carrying out a probe into Teli’s killing.
A senior NIA official in New Delhi said agents were questioning Muslims linked with the four accused in Udaipur to identify whether they had links with militant networks.
Muslims living about 3 kilometres from the tailor’s shop where the victim was killed said they felt nervous and feared a social and economic boycott by powerful Hindus residing in Udaipur.
“I know what has been done is barbaric, but the community should not be held responsible for the deed of two people,” said Mohammad Farukh, a medical representative living in a Muslim-dominated area of the city.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board called the incident “highly condemnable”, adding that it was against both Indian law and Islamic strictures.