Indian police arrest youth leader from Modi’s party for anti-Muslim comments

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Police in northern India arrested a youth leader from the Hindu nationalist ruling party for posting anti-Muslim comments on social media after derogatory remarks by another party official about Prophet Mohammad led to a diplomatic furor, officials said on Wednesday.

Harshit Srivastava, a youth leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, was arrested in Kanpur city following communal tensions last week during a protest by Muslims to denounce the anti-Islam comments.

“We arrested the local politician for making inflammatory remarks against Muslims,” said Prashant Kumar, a senior police official, adding that at least 50 people were taken into custody following the tensions in Kanpur.

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Srivastava’s lawyer was not available for a comment.

Sporadic unrest was reported in other parts of the country after the comments against the Prophet by BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma during a television debate.

She has been suspended from the party while another spokesman, Naveen Kumar Jindal, was expelled over comments he made about Islam on social media, the BJP has said.

Domestic outrage gained fresh momentum after leaders from Muslim nations such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan demanded apologies from the Indian government and summoned diplomats to protest against the anti-Islam remarks.

The influential 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said in a statement that the insults came in the context of an increasingly intense atmosphere of hatred toward Islam in India and systematic harassment of Muslims.

India’s foreign ministry said on Monday the offensive tweets and comments did not in any way reflect the government’s views.

The controversy has become a diplomatic challenge for Modi who in recent years has cemented strong ties with energy-rich Muslim nations.

Instructions have been issued to several members of his Hindu nationalist party to be “extremely cautious” when talking about religion on public platforms.

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