Indian city seeks to calm tensions after Hindu tailor’s beheading

·2 min read
The funeral procession for tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur - AP
The funeral procession for tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur - AP

The western Indian city of Udaipur has been placed under a partial curfew and internet access blocked across the entire state of Rajasthan over fears of retributory sectarian violence, following the alleged murder of a Hindu tailor by two Muslim men.

On Monday evening, a video went viral of the two men beheading the tailor, Kanhaiya Lal, who had recently shared a tweet in support of derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammed by Nupur Sharma, a spokeswoman from India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

At this stage, it is unclear whether the two machete-wielding men acted alone or were part of a terrorist organisation. Both Islamic State and al-Qaeda have vowed to carry out attacks in India in response to the comments made about the Prophet Mohammed.

Before they killed the tailor, the two men also recorded a video threatening to attack Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, who has overseen the implementation of a series of Islamophobic policies since he was re-elected in 2019.

Fearing the incident would spark retributory attacks on India’s Muslim minority, the authorities in Rajasthan have banned public gatherings for one month and suspended internet services until further notice.

Police officers take part in a flag march in Ajmer following the murder of a Hindu tailor - HIMANSHU SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images
Police officers take part in a flag march in Ajmer following the murder of a Hindu tailor - HIMANSHU SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images
Smoke rises from burning material on the road as tensions rise in Udaipur - /ANI via REUTERS
Smoke rises from burning material on the road as tensions rise in Udaipur - /ANI via REUTERS

“We are under strict orders to prevent any form of protests or demonstrations scheduled to condemn the murder,” said Hawa Singh Ghumaria, a senior police officer in Rajasthan, adding that the crime had sent “shockwaves” across India.

The Indian authorities have previously struggled to contain sectarian violence. Earlier in June, at least two people were killed during nationwide clashes between protesting Muslims and the Indian police over the Prophet Mohammed comments.

And, in 2020, Delhi witnessed its worst inter-religious violence in decades, leaving 53 people, the majority of whom were Muslims, dead.

Hundreds of people attended Mr Lal’s funeral procession on Wednesday and many directed their anger towards the authorities in Rajasthan, which is ruled by India’s opposition Congress Party.

Mr Lal had been detained by the police on June 10 after sharing the insulting post about the Prophet Mohammed on social media but was released later that day.

Several days later, he contacted the police again to say he was receiving death threats from an unidentified local group and sought police protection, which was allegedly not provided.

“We can only urge people to stop sharing the video of the heinous crime committed in Rajasthan and put an end to rising communal tension,” added a senior BJP official in Delhi, who requested anonymity before speaking to the media.

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