At least three people were killed in India’s IT hub Bangalore after a “derogatory” Facebook post about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sparked riots and resulted in clashes between police and thousands of protesters, it emerged on Wednesday.
According to Times of India, the violence, that erupted at 7pm on Tuesday, went on for at least five hours. The report added that 110 others had been arrested as of Wednesday morning.
The report stated that the violence erupted after a close relative of a local lawmaker, Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasamurthy, made a “derogatory” post about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on the social media site. The post has since been deleted.
Reacting to the post, a mob gathered outside the lawmaker’s house and set two cars on fire.
Police confirmed that Muzamill Pasha and six others from the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) were also detained for questioning, the publication said.
Bangalore Police Commissioner Kamal Pant wrote on Twitter that the lawmaker’s relative had been arrested for the post, along with about 100 others for rioting and arson, and the situation was now under control.
At least 60 officers were injured the previous evening as a furious crowd attacked a police station and set vehicles on fire. Local media images showed protesters trying to barge into the police building and shouting slogans outside the politician’s home.
Police opened fire with live ammunition and tear gassed the violent crowds. Three people were critically wounded during Tuesday’s violence and at least one reporter was injured, police told AFP.
The TOI report added that protesters had demanded that the lawmaker’s relative be placed under arrest, who had later claimed that his Facebook account had been hacked and he did not post the objectionable content.
Meanwhile, Srinivasamurthy called the incident an “an act of miscreants”. “The police and government will investigate and initiate legal action against mischief mongers. I am the MLA of this constituency and everyone here is my family.
“I request you to maintain peace. I fear miscreants may take advantage of the situation,” he was quoted as saying.
A ban on gatherings was in effect in some areas of the city on Wednesday, with nearly 10,000 police reservists patrolling the streets to keep order.
B.S. Yediyurappa, chief minister of Karnataka state, of which Bangalore is the capital, directed police to take strict action against those involved in the protest and appealed to the public to maintain peace.
“The government will not tolerate such provocations and rumors,” Yediyurappa said.
Offensive post reflects rising Islamophobia in India: FO
Shortly after the incident was reported, the Foreign Office (FO) issued a statement lodging a “strong protest” with India over the social media post against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
FO Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said that Pakistan had conveyed its “strong condemnation” to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad over the “derogatory social media post” by an “extremist from the majority Hindu community” in Bangalore.
“The offensive post against Islam has hurt Muslims and reflects rising Islamophobia and targeting of minority communities in India.
“Indian police, instead of preventing this hate crime against Muslims and Islam, used brute force, killed at least three protesters, and injured many more. As an added injustice, the Muslim community in the area is being falsely framed for alleged vandalism and assault on police personnel.”
The spokesperson added that rising incidents of religious hate crime in India were a “direct and inescapable” consequence of the RSS-BJP combine’s extremist “Hindutva” ideology.
“The incident has been viewed with concern and the civil society in Pakistan has called for justice for the minority Muslim community in India.
“Pakistan has called upon the Indian government to investigate the incident and take immediate action against the perpetrators of religious hatred.”
The Indian government has also been called upon to ensure the safety, security and well-being of minority communities, particularly Muslims, and to take steps to prevent hate speech and hate crimes against Islam and protect the religious rights of Muslims, it added.
“The international community, the United Nations and relevant international organisations should play their role against the rising tide of Islamophobia and ensure practical steps for the protection and religious rights of minorities in India,” the statement concluded.
Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India and is home to a sizable Muslim community among its eight million people.
India is officially a secular country but has been plagued by a long history of violence between its Hindu majority and Muslim minority. These incidents have increased in recent times, particularly since the Hindu national government of Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.
More than 50 people were killed during riots in the capital New Delhi earlier this year, with most of the victims Muslims.