New Delhi, India – Two teenagers were killed in violence in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, as police cracked down on protests that broke out across the country over the two leaders’ insulting remarks to the Prophet Muhammad. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The families of Mudasir, 14, and Sahil Ansari, 19, confirmed Al Jazeera’s death, alleging that police used disproportionate force against protesters who staged a march in Ranchi , the capital of Jharkhand, following Friday prayers from the congregation demanding the arrest of two BJP leaders.
Dozens of protesters were injured after the demonstrations turned violent. According to local media, a senior police officer in Ranchi was also injured. A witness told Al Jazeera that the situation got worse after Hindus organized protest rallies.
Several calls to the police in Ranchi went unanswered. We will update the story once we have a police response.
The BJP suspended its spokesman Nupur Sharma for making insulting remarks to the Prophet of Islam and expelled another leader, Naveen Jindal, for his anti-Muslim tweets after a diplomatic response from Muslim countries. The Hindu nationalist party said the offensive comments did not reflect the government’s position and that the comments were made by “fringe elements”.
Mudasir was shot in the head by police and he fought off his injuries at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, his uncle Shahid Ayyubi told Al Jazeera.
Sahil’s brother Faizan said he was hit in the back while returning home after praying. “The bullet broke his kidney and he died at the hospital after a while,” Faizan told Al Jazeera, adding that his brother didn’t even join the protest. Sahil runs a battery repair shop in the city.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the family’s claims. However, a local news agency confirmed that they died of gunshot wounds.
A police officer in Ranchi told AFP news agency that “the police were forced to open fire to disperse the protesters … resulting in the deaths of two people”.
‘Police’s job is to protect, not shoot’
Mudasir and Sahil’s bodies were handed over to the family late at night when authorities imposed curfew-like restrictions, including the suspension of mobile Internet services in the city as a means of remedial measures. security law.
“Mudasir is a kid, just 14 years old, waiting for the results of the matriculation exam,” Ayyubi said, her voice broken. “He joined the protests and now he is no longer among us. He is the only child of his parents. We are very shocked.”
The family demanded that the government put the “murderers of Mudasir in jail and severely punish them”.
Ayyubi blamed the authorities for the violence and said the police had handled the situation “badly”. “There are thousands of ways to control civilian protests like water cannons, rubber bullets, aerial shots, but they shoot directly into the head and body,” he said.
Irfan Ansari, an Islamic lawmaker from the National Assembly who is part of the governing coalition in the state, also criticized the government for its handling of the protests. “Police’s job is to protect, not shoot,” he said in a tweet in Hindi when questioned about the city’s police chief’s working style.
Ansari is demanding compensation of five million rupees ($64,000) and a government job each for the families of the deceased.
Al Jazeera tried to call Anshuman Kumar, Superintendent of Ranchi City Police, to get a police response but the calls went unanswered.
Friday’s protests over remarks against the prophet were witnessed in several cities and states, including the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and the capital New Delhi. Protests in India coincide with Protests held in South Asia against comments deemed offensive to the Islamic prophet and his wife Aisha.
The far-right party, which denounces insults to religious figures, also asked its spokesman “Extremely cautious” on religious issues during primetime “debates” on Indian news channels.
Police in New Delhi on Thursday filed a lawsuit against two BJP members and others – including a Muslim MP and journalist – for “inciting hatred” and other charges.
‘Pressed and traumatized’
The protests turned violent in some parts of Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state – as police used force to quell the demonstrations. In Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj, video circulating on social media showed police beating protesters with sticks while arresting some of them. Similar scenes were reported from the cities of Moradabad and Saharanpur where Muslims took to the streets demanding the arrest of Sharma and Jindal.
State police have arrested more than 200 people, including Muslim community activists.
Data shared by police with Al Jazeera shows that 48 people have been arrested in Saharanpur, 68 in Prayagraj, 50 in Hathras, 25 in Moradabad, 8 in Ferozabad and 28 in Ambedkarnagar.
Police in Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad, conducted night raids at the home of student leader Afreen Fatima, arresting her father Mohammad Javed, mother and sister.
“First, a group of police arrived around 8:30 pm and took my father, then they arrived at 11:30 pm and arrested my mother and sister. The third time, they came at 2:30 am to detain me but we resisted and since then the police have cordoned off our house,” Fatima told Al Jazeera by phone.
“At home we only have women and children. We feel cornered and hurt. The police asked us to lock the door.”
Fatima said police are accusing her father of being “the mastermind of the protests in the city,” a frame she denies. “My father was not part of the protests but he is active in civil society and is a prominent Muslim voice in the city and that is why he is being targeted.”
She said police did not tell them where they had taken her parents and sister. “I don’t know where my father, mother and sister are. I worry about their safety. My father is a diabetic and he needs insulin injections every night.”
Muslim community leaders have denounced the “unbridled” use of force by police in Ranchi and Uttar Pradesh.
SQR Ilyas, chairman of India’s Welfare Party, said the police action was “absurd because protest is the democratic right of the people”.
He said Muslims poured into the streets because they were hurt by insults against the prophet.
“Instead of solving the cause and arresting the perpetrators, the police resorted to killing, arresting and razing the homes of poor Muslims,” Ilyas said, questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence. on this issue.
However, the ruling BJP justified the detention when party spokesman Alok Vats told Al Jazeera that protesters had to resort to stoning.
“To protest is everyone’s right but you can’t throw stones,” he said, urging Muslims to be patient and let the law handle it.