On June 28th, a Hindu shop owner named Kanhaiya Lal was brutally murdered in the city of Udaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan by two Muslim men over an alleged social media post, triggering tension between the two communities. It is believed that the shop owner may have been facing threats for ten days leading up to the murder and asked for protection from the police, which they did not provide.
It's a sad & shameful incident. There's tense atmosphere in the nation today. Why don't PM & Amit Shah ji address the nation? There is tension among people. PM should address the public&say that such violence won't be tolerated & appeal for peace: Rajasthan CM on Udaipur murder pic.twitter.com/rkX0VRJPk0
— ANI (@ANI) June 28, 2022
Reports and video footage captured the two assailants entering the tailor shop posing as customers taking measurements for clothing moments before they murdered the shopkeeper by slitting his throat with a large knife. The attackers filmed the entirety of the violent crime and shared it on social media. After the attack, the accused proceeded to record a video of themselves admitting to the murder and declaring that they committed the action due to the shop owner’s social media post in support of the former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
Earlier in the year, Sharma made controversial statements about the Prophet Muhammad on TV, entangling India in a diplomatic crisis. The controversial comments caused outrage in the Islamic world, resulting in nationwide and global protests by Muslims, including some calls for a boycott of Indian goods. Numerous Muslim-majority countries have condemned Sharma’s remarks. As a result of the statement, the BJP announced on June 5th that Sharma had been suspended from the party.
According to Manoj Kumar, the Superintendent of Police in Udaipur, the shop owner was murdered due to exchanges between two communities over Nupur Sharma’s remarks. In the video they recorded of themselves, the two attackers declared that they were avenging an insult to Islam, as well as threatening Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After the murder, a previous video recorded on June 17th emerged, in which one of the two assailants describes his intentions to commit an act similar to what happened to the shop owner. The videos circulated on social media, increasing the escalation of intercommunal tensions and prompting authorities to suspend internet services temporarily.
Outraged demonstrators across the state took to the streets to protest the murder. A mob was throwing stones at a mosque before being dispersed by the police. As a result of the increasing communal tensions and protests, the Rajasthan government imposed a curfew. High-level security and police forces were deployed to maintain public order.
The two accused men were caught and arrested in a neighboring district on the night of the incident. Rajasthan Police has declared that the individuals responsible for the murder and protestors who disturb law and order will be punished.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has condemned the murder and stated that the culprits would not be spared. The Chief Minister has appealed to the public to stay calm, make peace, and not share the videos. Gehlot also encouraged the Prime Minister to address the public to make a statement that violence won’t be tolerated. Modi has not publicly commented on the incident.