Killing of Hindu man stokes tensions in India’s city of Udaipur

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Mobile internet services and large gatherings remained restricted in India’s western Udaipur city on Wednesday, a day after police arrested two men accused of killing a Hindu tailor in a suspected religious attack.

The Hindu man, Kanhaiya Lal, was stabbed multiple times inside his tailoring shop Tuesday by two cleaver-wielding men who also filmed the attack, news agency Press Trust of India reported. The two men later claimed responsibility for the killing in another video and threatened to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the same manner.

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The killing comes at a time when religious polarization in India is on the rise amid a spate of attacks on minority groups, especially Muslims.

Tensions escalated in May when two spokespeople from Modi’s party made speculative remarks that were seen as insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Both were later suspended by Modi’s party after it led to severe diplomatic backlash for India from many Muslim-dominated countries. The controversy also led to protests in India which turned violent in some places after demonstrators pelted stones at police. At least two people were killed.

Lal’s killing has led to tensions in Udaipur and across the Rajasthan state, prompting authorities to rush additional police into the city to counter any religious unrest.

TV reports aired video of Lal lying on the ground with his throat slit. Police said both accused were arrested within hours of the incident.

The arrested men accused Lal of blasphemy in the video. Local media reported the victim had purportedly shared a social media post supporting a suspended spokesperson for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party who made controversial remarks on the Prophet Muhammad last month.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot ensured a speedy investigation into Lal’s killing. He said the criminals will be punished and urged people not to share the video on social media because of its highly inflammatory content.

“I again appeal to all to maintain peace,” Gehlot said Tuesday in a tweet.

India’s home ministry has dispatched a team of its anti-terror agency to Rajasthan to investigate whether the killing had any links to terrorist groups. So far, the state police have not charged the two arrested men with terrorism.

In Rajasthan state in 2017, a Hindu man brutally killed a Muslim laborer in a religious attack and shared a video of the victim being hacked to death and then set on fire.

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