Protests over insults against the Prophet Mohammed rage across India

Comments made by Bharatiya Janata Party officials have caused violent protests to break out in some parts of the country

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Sporadic violence broke out in several Indian cities on Friday as angry Muslim demonstrators took to the streets to demand the arrest of officials in the Bharatiya Janata Party accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Nupur Sharma, spokeswoman for the BJP and Naveen Kumar Jindal, another party official, made the inflammatory comments last week during a televised debate and in social media posts.

Both officials are the subjects of police cases in a number of states for offending religious sentiments but neither has been arrested.

The BJP is one of India's two major political parties and is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Protesters gathered on the streets in large numbers after Friday prayers in several parts of the country, including near the Jama Masjid in the capital Delhi.

“Our demand is that those who have used derogatory words should get strict punishment,” one of the protesters told a local news channel.

Similar protests took place in Maharashtra, Punjab and West Bengal.

But in northern Uttar Pradesh state, violence erupted in at least two places.

Police said protesters hurled stones at security forces in the Saharanpur district while angry demonstrators set fire to a police officer's car in Prayagraj, which led riot police to use tear gas.

At least 21 people were arrested in Saharanpur and some protesters were also detained in the Deoband area.

Video footage shared by local media showed police and paramilitary forces using batons on the protesters.

Local authorities had imposed restrictions on gatherings in several parts of the state over fears of possible violence and teams of police were sent to sensitive areas to keep the peace.

A curfew was imposed in northern Jammu’s Bhaderwah district and mobile internet was cut after clashes broke out on Thursday.

In Kashmir's Srinagar, shopkeepers launched peaceful protests, holding up placards and chanting: “We want justice.”

In Ranchi in eastern Jharkhand, hundreds of protesters took to the streets and reportedly torched and vandalised cars.

In southern Karnataka state, protesters hung an effigy of Ms Sharma from an overhead cable on a motorway.

Modi government distances itself from 'fringe elements'

The protests came as Muslim countries around the world, including the Gulf, condemned the remarks.

At least 16 countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey, lodged diplomatic protests with New Delhi over the comments.

The BJP suspended Ms Sharma and expelled Mr Jindal in response to the international backlash.

Mr Modi’s government also distanced itself from the two officials, describing them as “fringe elements” and saying their comments did not reflect the views of the Indian government.

But tempers have been running high in India, with many demanding the arrest of Ms Sharma and Mr Jindal.

Both officials were assigned additional security from the govern

ment after they claimed that they had received death threats.

Delhi police on Thursday filed a complaint against Ms Sharma and Mr Jindal for “trying to disrupt public tranquillity and inciting people on divisive lines”.

Updated: June 10, 2022, 7:38 PM
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