Thousands protest in India’s Udaipur after Hindu tailor murdered
Holding saffron flags and placards, about 7,000 people call for the death penalty for the two Muslims accused of beheading Kanhaiyalal Teli.
Thousands of people have marched through the Indian city of Udaipur, many holding Hindu saffron flags and placards, following the murder of a Hindu tailor, with many calling for the death penalty for the two Muslim men accused of killing him.
Police had barred public gatherings in the northwestern state of Rajasthan out of fear that it could lead to religious violence. But authorities in Udaipur, a city of nearly half a million people in the southern part of the state, decided to let a short march take place on Thursday.
Senior Rajasthan police official, Dinesh MN, told reporters that about 7,000 people joined the march, and that it passed off peacefully.
There have been protests elsewhere in India over Tuesday’s shocking killing, and they have also passed without any major incident.
Federal investigators have interrogated the suspected killers, who posted two video clips online, one showing assailants slashing the tailor around the head and neck as he bent to take measurements in his shop.
In the second video, two Muslim men brandished a meat cleaver while claiming responsibility for slaughtering the tailor, Kanhaiyalal Teli, saying he had insulted Prophet Muhammad.
The veracity of the two videos has not been confirmed.
The two men also issued a threat against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in their video and alluded to Nupur Sharma, a former spokeswoman for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose remarks about the Prophet earlier this month triggered domestic and international outrage.
“It was only because of the case of Nupur Sharma [that] my father was killed. It wasn’t such a big deal,” the victim’s son, Yash Teli, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.
“Does it make sense that they killed my father over this small issue?” he said, calling for the two accused to be hanged or killed by police.
Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told reporters in Udaipur that the case was being investigated as a “terrorism-related incident” rather than a communal one.
Standing outside the victim’s house, Gehlot said police would check claims by the family that Teli had received threats from some group.
“We will ensure that the guilty get punished,” Gehlot said as he appealed for calm.
India’s Home Minister Amit Shah said in a tweet that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had taken over the investigation into “the brutal murder” of Teli.
“The involvement of any organisation and international links will be thoroughly investigated,” Shah said.
Late on Wednesday, a spokesperson from Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected reports in some Indian media that linked the suspects to a Pakistan-based organisation.
Muslim groups and politicians in India have condemned the murder.
“One cannot take law in their own hands. It is a horrible thing to do. It’s inhuman,” Asaduddin Owaisi, a member of parliament, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, India’s federal government has asked social media companies to remove any content that encourages or glorifies the killing.
The BJP has called for people to stay calm. Earlier this month, the party suspended Sharma and another official over remarks about the Prophet, though Muslim groups and opposition politicians have called for stronger action.
Modi’s pursuit of a “Hindu first” agenda since coming to power in 2014 has stoked communal tensions in India, a country with a ghastly history of Hindu-Muslim violence. Muslims, who make up 14 percent of the population, say they have been marginalised under Modi.