Indian police shot dead two protesters and arrested more than 130 others during street rallies sparked by a ruling party official’s offensive remarks about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), authorities told AFP yesterday. There have been widespread protests in the Muslim world since last week.
In India and neighbouring countries, Muslims took to the streets in huge numbers after Friday prayers to condemn the remarks, with police firing on a crowd in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi.
“Police were forced to open fire to disperse protesters... resulting in the death of two,” a police officer in Ranchi told AFP. Officers said that the crowd had defied their orders not to march from a mosque to a market.
Authorities cut Internet connections in the city and imposed a curfew, with local resident Shabnam Ara telling AFP the atmosphere remained tense yesterday. “We are praying for peace and harmony,” she said.
Police in Uttar Pradesh fired tear gas to disperse at least one rally after several demonstrations were staged across the northern Indian state. Most protests ended peacefully but demonstrators in some cities threw stones at police and injured at least one officer, said Avanish Awasthi, a senior government secretary in the state.
Prashant Kumar, a senior police officer in the state, told AFP that up to 136 protesters had been arrested from six districts around Uttar Pradesh. Cities around India saw sizeable demonstrations on Friday, with some crowds burning effigies of Nupur Sharma — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokeswoman whose derogatory comments set off the furore.
Authorities also cut Internet services for the weekend in several districts near the eastern megacity of Kolkata, after protesters blocked a railway line and mobbed a police station. Sharma’s remarks have embroiled India in a diplomatic storm, with the governments of nearly 20 countries calling in Indian envoys for an explanation. Sharma’s comments sent the BJP into damage control, with the party suspending her from its ranks.
Friday saw the biggest South Asian street rallies yet in response to the remarks, with police estimating more than 100,000 people mobilised across Bangladesh after midday prayers.
Another 5,000 people took to the streets in the Pakistani city of Lahore at the call of a religious party, demanding that their government take stronger action against India over the comments.
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