Muslims have protested across India over the remarks by one of the ruling party’s top members. As of the second week of June, two people have died related to the protests in Jharkhand, a state in eastern India, while hundreds were arrested.
In Uttar Pradesh, around 230 protesters were arrested. In West Bengal, 70 people were arrested and charged with rioting and disturbing public order.
According to Al Jazeera, the families of the victims, 14-year-old Mudassir Alam and 19-year-old Sahil Ansari, blamed the police for using “disproportionate force against the protesters.” Dozens of protesters were also hurt, including a senior police officer.
Alam was shot in the head, his uncle Mohammad Shahid Ayyubi said.
Two Indian teenagers have been shot dead as police fired live rounds to quell demonstrations on Friday against derogatory remarks made against the Prophet Muhammad by a ruling party official. pic.twitter.com/R9pKO3bxmY
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) June 12, 2022
A witness said that the initial protests by Muslims were met by counter-protests organized by Hindu nationalists, worsening the situation.
Surendra Kumar Jha, a senior police officer, said at least 14 police officers and ten protesters were injured.
On May 27, during a televised debate over the Gyanvapi mosque, Nupur Sharma, a senior member of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), made controversial comments regarding the Prophet Muhammad.
The dispute regarding the Gyanvapi mosque is a longstanding religious flashpoint between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus claim that the mosque was built on top of the Vishwanath temple, a Hindu shrine built in the 16th century and partially destroyed in 1669.
Initially, Sharma’s comments were left unnoticed. Mohammed Zubair, a journalist, and fact-checker, Tweeted Sharma’s statement. After Zubair’s tweet, Sharma began receiving rape and death threats. Including “threats against my sister, mother, father, and myself,” she said on Twitter.
Days after Zubair’s tweet, protests by Muslims across India began spreading. The news also gained international condemnation from Muslim-majority counties like Kuwait, Iran, and Qatar.
Saudi Arabia also issued a strong comment against Sharma’s statement. Massive protests in India’s neighboring countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh are also gaining traction.
Sub Ansari, a protestor in Ranchi, Jharkhand, where the two victims were killed, said the protests started peacefully. “Then the crowd was slowly turning out of control,” he said.
The BJP removed Sharma as the spokesperson for the party’s Delhi chapter, along with Naveen Kumar Jindal, the head of the BJP’s media unit in Delhi. BJP claimed that Sharma and Jindal’s comments are “views of fringe elements.”
Delhi police also lodged a case against Sharma “on the basis of social media analysis against those trying to disrupt public tranquillity and inciting people on divisive lines.”
Despite massive media coverage, the statements made by Sharma in May have not been made clear in many news sources. The Atheist Republic News Team was able to find reliable translators who clarified that Sharma mentioned that the earth is flat in the Quran, that the prophet flew on a winged horse, and that the prophet married Aisha when she was six years old and consummated the marriage when she was nine. All of these assertions are indeed in Islamic literature.