Thousands march in Udaipur to demand protection for Hindus after tailor's killing

Police had barred gatherings in Rajasthan, but Udaipur authorities decided to let a short march take place. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Thousands of people marched through the Indian city of Udaipur on Thursday (June 30), many holding Hindu saffron flags and placards demanding protection for Hindus after two Muslim men videoed themselves slaying a Hindu tailor in the city earlier this week.

Police had barred public gatherings in the northwestern state of Rajasthan out of fear that it could lead to more communal violence. But authorities in Udaipur, a city of around half a million people in the southern part of the state, decided to let a short march take place.

Senior Rajasthan police official, Dinesh MN, told reporters, that around 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 taken place without any major incident.

Federal police have interrogated the suspected killers, who posted two videos 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, Mr Kanhaiyalal Teli, saying he had insulted the Prophet Mohammad.

They also issued a threat against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in their video and alluded to Ms Nupur Sharma, a former spokeswoman for Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist party, whose remarks about the Prophet earlier this month triggered domestic and international outrage.

The case was being investigated as a "terrorism-related incident" rather than a communal one, Rajasthan's Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told reporters in Udaipur.

Standing outside the victim's house, Mr Gehlot said police would check claims by the family that Mr Teli had received threats from some group.

"We will ensure that the guilty get punished," Mr Gehlot said as he appealed for calm.

The federal government in New Delhi has asked social media companies to remove any content that encourages or glorifies the killing.

And Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also called for people to stay calm. Earlier this month, the party suspended Ms Sharma and another official, over remarks about the Prophet Muhammad, though opposition politicians have called for stronger action.

Mr 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. And many Muslims, who make up 13 per cent of the population, complain of feeling more marginalised due to Mr Modi's policies.

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