Fear and anger in Udaipur, India, where a Hindu tailor was killed | Religious News

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India – Tension reigns in Udaipur, a former city of man-made lakes in India’s northwest desert state of Rajasthan, after two Muslims were arrested for the brutal murder of a Hindu tailor last week .

Kanhaiyalal Teli was reportedly beheaded by the two men because of his social media post in support of a former official of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who made inflammatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha.

Remarks made during a televised debate in late May sparked protests across the country and dragged New Delhi into a diplomatic storm as more than 20 Muslim countries condemned the BJP leader and demanded an apology from India’s Hindu nationalist government .

The BJP suspended the official and issued a rare statement, saying it respects all religions. But its damage control has also been accompanied by a brutal crackdown on Muslim protesters, with at least two dead and many homes bulldozed.

In two videos posted after the killing, Teli’s alleged killers – Mohammad Riyaz Akhtari and Ghouse Mohammad, in their 30s and both fathers of two – said they were seeking revenge for the BJP official’s anti-Islam remarks . The veracity of the two videos has not been confirmed.

The federally-regulated National Investigation Agency (NIA) is investigating the case and has made other arrests, including that of an alleged “mastermind” behind the murder. The NIA also said it was investigating whether the murder was carried out by a “local self-radicalized terrorist gang” or if it was part of a wider international “terrorist” network.

Meanwhile, Indian media have suggested that one of the suspected killers may be a member of the BJP and that the murder may be part of a plot by the right-wing party to spark religious violence in the city.

Photos of Akhtari with suspected BJP workers circulated on social media over the weekend, with the party denying any links to him.

Akbar Khan, an immediate neighbor of Ghouse Mohammad in Udaipur [Samriddhi Sakunia/Al Jazeera]

In Udaipur’s Khanji Pir, a predominantly Muslim working-class ghetto, many people recognized Ghouse but few could speak in detail about Akhtari, except that he was a welder and had lived in the area for a few years with his family. .

Ghouse’s neighbors said he worked as an insurance agent, was “always very courteous and well-liked by everyone in the locality”, and they were shocked to see him in the video with Akhtari.

“He always greeted people on his way and offered namaz [prayers] five times a day. I don’t understand what happened suddenly,” a neighbor told Al Jazeera, on condition of anonymity.

“I never saw Riyaz (Akhtari) and Ghouse together. We only know that Riyaz used to stay here in a rented apartment, but nothing more. He was always seen at the mosque, however,” a- she added, as her husband stood beside her, nodding.

Since Teli’s murder on June 28, authorities in Udaipur have banned public gatherings of more than four people in the city of around 500,000 people, including 90,000 Muslims.

Last week, Udaipur witnessed several protests led by Hindu groups against Teli’s killing, with hundreds of men on motorbikes carrying sticks and other weapons in their hands, brandishing hateful slogans against the Muslim community .

Udaipur Murder
Hindus marching with saffron flags over Udaipur murder [Samriddhi Sakunia/Al Jazeera]

“If they (Muslims) want to stay here, they better stay within their boundaries,” one protester told Al Jazeera as he held a saffron flag.

“I don’t understand why this government supports terrorists like these,” he said, referring to the state government led by the opposition Congress party.

Many protesters wanted the two suspects either hanged or killed by police in an “encounter” – a common word for extrajudicial execution.

Muslims in Khanji Pir said they had lived in fear since the June 28 killing. They also claimed that the authorities blocked off the neighborhood and did not allow them to go out, even for essential supplies.

“There is no hospital in the vicinity, only two or three doctors’ surgeries. So we don’t know what will happen in an emergency since we are not allowed to go out,” one resident told Al Jazeera, refusing to reveal his identity for fear of reprisals.

Some said they made do with leftover rations in their homes because they couldn’t leave their homes.

A group of ghetto residents are also concerned about the way Indian mainstream media cover community issues.

“Every day we are hounded by journalists who ask us strange questions about our possible links to the killers,” shopkeeper Akbar Khan, an immediate neighbor of Ghouse, told Al Jazeera.

“They came to see us, but only to talk about Riyaz and Ghouse, not about us and how we feel,” said another Muslim.

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