Two Muslim men have been arrested in India’s Udaipur city in the western state of Rajasthan for allegedly beheading a Hindu tailor over his support online for a former ruling party official whose remarks about Prophet Muhammad sparked global protests.
Mobile internet services and large gatherings remained restricted in Udaipur on Wednesday, a day after the murder of Kanhaiya Lal.
Lal was stabbed multiple times inside his tailoring shop on Tuesday by the two cleaver-wielding men who also filmed the attack. The duo accused Lal of blasphemy in the video.
The two men later claimed responsibility for the killing in another video and allegedly threatened to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the same manner.
TV reports aired video of Lal lying on the ground with his throat slit. The accused were arrested within hours of the incident as they were trying to flee the city on motorcycles, reports said.
“Both the accused in the killing have been arrested and we will ensure strict punishment and speedy justice,” Ashok Gehlot, chief minister of Rajasthan, said on Twitter.
Gehlot appealed to people to stay calm and not share the video as it would “serve the attackers’ motive of creating discord in society”.
Authorities rushed additional police into Udaipur on Tuesday to counter any religious unrest.
“We are under strict orders to prevent any form of protests or demonstrations scheduled to condemn the murder,” Hawa Singh Ghumaria, a senior police officer told Reuters news agency, adding that the crime had sent “shockwaves through the country”.
Asaduddin Owaisi, a member of parliament, condemned the murder.
“One cannot take law in their own hands. It is a horrible thing to do. It’s inhuman,” he told Al Jazeera.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a Muslim religious organisation, said the Udaipur incident is “barbaric, uncivilised and there is no room for justification of violence in Islam”.
“We strongly condemn it. No citizen should take law in his own hands. Let the law prevail,” the organisation posted on Twitter.
Critics accuse Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of marginalising the Muslim community and sewing divisions with the Hindus since he came to power in 2014.
Rajasthan, a state governed by the opposition Congress party, saw tensions last month as well when Hindus and Muslims in Jodhpur city clashed during religious festivals of both the communities.
In 2017, a Hindu man in Rajasthan brutally killed a Muslim labourer in a religious attack and shared a video of the victim being hacked to death and then set on fire.
According to local media, Lal had shared a social media post 10 days ago supporting Nupur Sharma, the suspended spokeswoman for the BJP who made controversial remarks on the Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha on a TV show in May.
Another BJP official, Naveen Kumar Jindal, supported Sharma’s statements and made more anti-Islam remarks in his tweets, sparking a furore in India and many Muslim nations.
The BJP, in a damage control mode, suspended Sharma, expelled Jindal and issued a rare statement, saying it “respects all religions”.
Lal’s wife told NDTV news channel that on June 10, her husband was arrested over his 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 attack him.
On Wednesday, hundreds gathered outside Lal’s house ahead of his funeral, chanting slogans and demanding the death penalty for the accused.
On social media, many depicted the killing as an attack on all Hindus, with thousands of tweets carrying hashtags such as #IslamicTerrorismInIndia.
Federal Home Minister Amit Shah said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would take over the investigation of the “brutal murder”.
“The involvement of any organisation and international links will be thoroughly investigated,” Shah tweeted.