Protests Over Prophet Muhammad Comments Turn Deadly in India

Religion World

New Delhi, India – Two teenagers were killed in violence as police cracked down on protests that erupted across the country over derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad by two members of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

 

The families of Mudasir, 14, and Sahil Ansari, 19, confirmed the deaths to Al Jazeera, alleging the police used disproportionate force against the protesters who marched in Ranchi, capital of eastern Jharkhand state, after Friday prayers demanding the arrest of two BJP officals.

 

Dozens of protesters were injured after protests turned violent. A senior police officer in Ranchi was also hurt, according to local media reports. A witness told Al Jazeera the situation worsened after Hindus organised counter protests.

Several calls to the police in Ranchi went unanswered.

 

The BJP suspended its spokeswoman Nupur Sharma for making insulting remarks against Islam’s prophet and expelled another leader, Naveen Jindal, for his anti-Islam tweet after a diplomatic backlash from Muslim countries.

 

The Hindu nationalist party said the offensive remarks did not reflect the government’s position and the comments were made by “fringe elements”.

Mudasir was shot in the head by police and he succumbed to his wounds at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, his uncle Shahid Ayyubi told Al Jazeera.

 

Sahil’s brother Faizan said he was hit by a bullet in the back while returning home after prayers.

 

“The bullet ruptured his kidney and he died at the hospital after some time,” Faizan told Al Jazeera, adding his brother was not even part of the protests. Sahil ran a battery repair shop in the city.

 

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the claims made by the family. However, a local news agency confirmed they died of gunshot wounds.

 

A police officer in Ranchi told AFP news agency: “Police were forced to open fire to disperse protesters … resulting in the death of two.”

 

‘Job of police is to protect, not to shoot’

The bodies of Mudasir and Sahil were handed over to the families as the government imposed curfew-like restrictions, including suspension of mobile internet services in the city purportedly as a security measure.