NEW DELHI (Dispatches) — At least three people were killed in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru when police clashed with hundreds of Muslims who protested over a Facebook post considered offensive to Islam, police said Wednesday.
Senior police officer Kamal Pant said the protesters attacked the house of a local politician whose relative was accused of posting remarks online reportedly involving Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). The post has since been deleted, he said.
"Three people died in the police action and more than 110 people have been arrested for attacking the police station,” Pant said. He said at least 60 police officers were injured in the Tuesday night protests in Bengaluru, also known as Bangalore.
Pant said the person responsible for the Facebook post was arrested and a law prohibiting gatherings was imposed in the city, with a heavy police presence in some areas. "Things are peaceful now,” he said.
B.S. Yediyurappa, chief minister of Karnataka state, of which Bengaluru 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.
The protest in southern India comes months after communal riots in the national capital, New Delhi, in which more than 55 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Muslims comprise about 14% of Hindu-majority India’s population of 1.3 billion.
Last week, Hindus rejoiced as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke ground on a controversial temple at the site of a demolished 16th century mosque.
It marked a year since the Indian Parliament revoked the semi-autonomous status of its only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir.
The Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed by Hindu radicals with
pickaxes and crowbars in December 1992, sparking massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left some 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims.
The groundbreaking follows a ruling by India’s Supreme Court last November favoring the building of a Hindu temple on the disputed site in Uttar Pradesh state.
The temple-mosque dispute badly divided Hindus and Muslims, often triggering communal clashes.
Many members of India’s Muslim minority saw last year’s court ruling awarding the site to Hindus as part of a pattern by the Hindu-nationalist government aimed at sidelining Muslims.
Prominent Muslims have said they fear the new temple could embolden Hindu nationalists to target two other mosques in Uttar Pradesh.
Modi’s critics see him as remolding the country as a Hindu nation, at the expense of India’s 200 million Muslims, and taking it in an authoritarian direction.
His other actions have also alarmed Modi’s critics and delighted his fans.
Last year, a new law made it easier for millions of illegal immigrants from three neighboring countries to get citizenship, but not if they are Muslims.
A "citizenship list” in Assam state left off millions who were unable to prove they were Indian, many of them Muslims, a process many fear the BJP wants to roll out nationwide.
More may be in the pipeline. On the BJP’s wishlist is a uniform civil code, doing away with personal laws for religious minorities in areas such as marriage, family and death – a policy aimed primarily at Muslims.