Indian police have killed two protesters and arrested scores of others during tense demonstrations against recent offensive remarks about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The protests were sparked across the Muslim world last week, when two officials with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made blasphemous remarks about the Prophet’s private life in a TV debate.
People took to the streets in India and neighboring countries Bangladesh and Pakistan on Friday to condemn the derogatory remarks.
In India, police “were forced to open fire to disperse protesters... resulting in the death of two,” a police officer in Ranchi told AFP.
Police in Uttar Pradesh fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
Police said demonstrators in some cities defied their orders not to march from a mosque to a market and continued to throw stones at officers.
“We will take strict action against those indulging in stone pelting and violence,” said Avanish Awasthi, a senior government secretary. “Those working behind the scenes, instigating violence, will not be spared at all.”
A senior officer in Prashant Kumar said up to “136 protesting miscreants” had been arrested from six districts around Uttar Pradesh.
Several parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority region, observed a shutdown on Friday.
Authorities suspended mobile internet services and deployed additional security forces in some areas in Kashmir to quell potential gatherings.
Remarks made by spokeswoman Nupur Sharma against the Prophet embroiled India in a diplomatic storm both at home and abroad.
A complaint was filed against Sharma for “inciting people on divisive lines,” Delhi Police said Thursday on Twitter. But the Muslim population across the country says such actions are not enough.
Nearly 20 countries have called on Indian ambassadors for an explanation. Several countries, including Iran, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have lodged official protests in that regard.
In the meantime, calls for a boycott of Indian goods have surfaced on social media.
Muslims in India have been facing a sharp rise in Islamophobia and attacks on them since Modi came to power in 2014. The Modi administration and the BJP stand accused of championing discriminatory policies towards Muslims.
The government has proposed a controversial law that granted citizenship to refugees in India, but not if they are Muslim.