Indian police arrest 'masterminds' behind murder of Hindu tailor

A portrait of the Hindu tailor being carried by his sons after a prayer meeting in Udaipur, India, on June 30, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

UDAIPUR/MUMBAI (REUTERS) - Indian police made fresh arrests in the case of the execution of a Hindu tailor in Rajasthan, a murder that stoked unease between the Hindu majority and Muslim minority and led to a clampdown on protests and the Internet to prevent tensions from escalating.

Three senior police officials said on Saturday (July 2) that two more Muslim men based in the north-western state were held for planning the tailor's murder last week in his shop in Udaipur, a popular tourist destination dotted with lakes and palace hotels.

"We have now arrested the two masterminds, and previously we had arrested two men who committed the heinous crime," said Mr Prafulla Kumar, a senior police official in Udaipur.

Mr Kumar said Internet services were being gradually restored, and security forces continued to be on alert following the murder, carried out by two Muslim men now under arrest who filmed the act and posted it online.

Two Muslim men already under arrest for the murder, who filmed the act and posted it online, said the act was in response to the victim's support for a politician's derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

The victim, Mr Kanhaiya Lal Teli, had allegedly put up a social media post supporting a former spokesman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party who made anti-Islam comments in May.

On Friday (July 1), judges from the Supreme Court of India stated the former spokesman, Ms Nupur Sharma, must apologise to the whole nation after the remarks intensified religious fault lines in India, angered Islamic nations and triggered diplomatic strains.

Local media reported a separate incident that occurred on June 21 in which a chemist was stabbed to death in the western state Maharashtra for allegedly supporting the remarks made by the BJP’s former spokesperson on social media.

“Five persons were arrested in connection with the murder of the chemist, and a search is on to trace the prime accused,” Mr Aarti Singh, a chief regional police official, was quoted by local press as saying.

Mr Singh said the reasons behind the murder were yet to be ascertained.

In India, at least two demonstrators were killed in police fire during protests against Ms Sharma's comments.

In Afghanistan, the militant group Islamic State last month claimed an attack on a Sikh temple that killed at least two people and injured seven was in response to insults levelled at the Prophet Muhammad in India.

Police in New Delhi arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair, a vocal critic of the Modi government, who had helped draw attention to Ms Sharma's remarks through his fact-checking website Alt News and on social media.

The National Investigative Agency (NIA), India's top anti-terrorism agency, said they were carrying out a probe into the Hindu tailor's killing.

A senior NIA official in New Delhi said they were questioning Muslims linked with the four accused in Udaipur to identify whether they had links with militant networks.

Muslims living about 3km from the tailor's shop where the victim was killed said they felt nervous and feared a social and economic boycott by powerful Hindus residing in Udaipur.

"I know what has been done is barbaric, but the community should not be held responsible for the deed of two people," said Mr Mohammed Farukh, a medical representative living in a Muslim-dominated area of the city.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board called the incident "highly condemnable", adding that it was against both Indian law and Islamic strictures.

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