Protests erupted in several parts of India on Friday against the disparaging remarks made by two Bharatiya Janata Party spokespersons about Prophet Muhammad.
Many Muslim-majority countries have condemned India after Nupur Sharma made the remarks during a debate on the Times Now television channel on May 26, while Naveen Jindal, who was media head of the BJP’s Delhi unit, had posted a tweet on June 1 about the Prophet. He deleted the tweet later.
On June 5, the BJP had suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal after the diplomatic backlash.
On Friday, demonstrations took place in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, West Bengal, Hyderabad, among other places. In most cities, including Delhi, Kolkata and Prayagraj, the protests started after Friday prayers.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked police chief of states and Union Territories to be alert and prepared, reported ANI, citing an official.
In Delhi, a large crowd protested outside the Jama Masjid. The protestors, carrying placards, shouted slogans against Sharma.
The Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid said that the mosque committee did not call for protest, ANI reported.
“We don’t know who are protesting,” the Imam said, according to ANI. “I think they belong to AIMIM [All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen] or are [Asaduddin] Owaisi’s people. We made it clear that if they want to protest, they can, but we will not support them.”
The Delhi Police said that the protestors left the site within 10-15 minutes.
“Almost 1,500 people had gathered in Jama Masjid for Friday prayers,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Shweta Chauhan said, according to ANI. “After the prayers, nearly 300 people came out and started to protest over inflammatory remarks by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal.”
Chauhan further said that the protest was held on the street without any permission. “Legal action will be taken,” she said.
109 arrested in Uttar Pradesh
In Uttar Pradesh, protests broke out in Saharanpur, Moradabad and Prayagraj and other cities. Protestors shouted slogans and threw stones in the Atala area of Prayagraj after Friday prayers of the Muslims ended, according to PTI.
Security has been increased in Lucknow, Kanpur and Firozabad. “Strict action will be taken against anyone who unnecessarily attempts to disrupt the peace and order situation,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi said after the recent violence.
The police had fired tear gas to contain the protests in Prayagraj, NDTV reported. However, the situation is still tense.
The police said they have arrested 109 persons in connection with the protests from six districts of the state till 7.30 pm, PTI reported. Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said 38 protesters were arrested from Saharanpur, 15 from Prayagraj, 24 from Hathras, seven from Moradabad, two from Firozabad and 23 persons from Ambedkar Nagar.
Chief Minister Adityanath held a meeting with top officials regarding the protests, reported ANI. The chief minister’s office said that Adityanath has told officials to take stringent action against “anti-social elements” and those who violate the law.
Policemen were injured in Jharkhand’s Ranchi while trying to contain angry protestors near a temple, PTI reported. Hundreds of protestors demanded that Sharma should be arrested for her remarks, the police said.
Ranchi Senior Superintendent of Police Surendra Kumar Jha was among the injured personnel. The police said that 11 of their officials and 12 protestors have suffered wounds in the violence, reported ANI.
One of the injured persons sustained a bullet injury, Ranchi Civil Surgeon Vinod Kumar said.
A curfew has been imposed in violence-hit areas of Ranchi, ANI reported. Internet services have also been cut off from 7 pm on Friday till 6 am on Saturday.
“The situation is a little tense but under control,” said Anish Gupta, deputy inspector general of police, Ranchi. “We are making all efforts from our end. Heavy security deployment done. Senior officials are also present at the spot. We are making all efforts to see that the crowd is dispersed from here.”
Vehicles were set on fire during the protest and videos showed widespread stone-throwing.
Protests were also held in East Singhbhum district’s Chakulia village where several Muslims offered Friday prayers while wearing black badges.
In Hazaribag, some residents tried to take out a protest march but the officials stopped them, said Superintendent of Police Manoj Ratan Chothe. He said that police personnel have been deployed at strategic points of the city.
A curfew has also been imposed in Hazaribag.
Demonstrations were also held in Kolkata’s Park Circus area, in Hyderabad’s Charminar, Punjab’s Ludhiana, in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar and several cities of Maharashtra.
Protests have been continuing in Howrah district since Thursday, reported PTI. Internet services were suspended on Friday and it will remain in effect till 6 am on Monday, an order issued by the state home department said.
In Navi Mumbai, at least 3,000 residents took out a protest march, seeking the arrest of Sharma and Jindal, PTI reported. Similar demonstrations and marches were also held in Thane, Aurangabad, Solapur, Nandurbar, Parbhani, Beed, Latur, Bhandara, Chandrapur and Pune districts.
In Karnataka’s Belgavi district, Sharma’s effigy was hanged from an electric wire near a mosque on Fort Road, the police said, reported The Indian Express. The police have taken it down.
Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil said the protests were held peacefully as the police handled the situation well.
New Delhi has been trying to contain the fallout of the outrage across the world, saying the controversial comments had been made by “fringe elements” and they did not reflect the views of the Indian government.
On Thursday, the Delhi Police filed a first information report against Sharma, Jindal along with journalist Saba Naqvi and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi for social media posts that allegedly hurt religious sentiments.