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Protests in many States over remarks on the Prophet

Carts were set on fire by miscreants in Ranchi on June 10, 2022 during a protest against remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

Carts were set on fire by miscreants in Ranchi on June 10, 2022 during a protest against remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. | Photo Credit: PTI

Massive protests broke out in several States on Friday over the recent controversial remarks on Prophet Muhammad by suspended Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma and the now-expelled Delhi media unit chief Naveen Kumar Jindal.

While Delhi witnessed peaceful protests demanding Ms. Sharma’s arrest outside the Jama Masjid after Friday prayers, the police in Jharkhand fired in the air and resorted to baton charge to control protesters who threw stones that injured a few police personnel.

A policeman fires in the air in Ranchi on June 10, 2022  to disperse people protesting against remarks about Prophet Muhammad.

A policeman fires in the air in Ranchi on June 10, 2022 to disperse people protesting against remarks about Prophet Muhammad. | Photo Credit: PTI

Authorities in Jammu imposed curfew in a few areas and parts of Kashmir observed a shutdown as street protests erupted over alleged blasphemous remarks by Ms. Sharma and a local journalist on social media.

In Uttar Pradesh, peaceful protests were held in Kanpur, Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur and Lucknow, but violence broke out in Saharanpur and Prayagraj. In Saharanpur, protesters demanded the death sentence for Ms. Sharma and in Prayagraj motorcycles and carts were set on fire. The police said one policeman was injured in Prayagraj and they had to fire tear gas and resort to a lathi charge to disperse the demonstrators.

In West Bengal, hundreds of protesters blocked roads in Howrah district. Agitators clashed with police personnel at Dhulagarh, Panchla and Uluberia during an attempt to lift the blockade on National Highway-6, the police said. Protesters also blocked railway tracks between the Fuleswar and Chengail stations in the Howrah-Kharagpur section.

Agitations were also held in some areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat. In Telangana’s Old City of Hyderabad, peaceful crowds gathered outside Mecca Masjid after Friday prayers. The police resorted to baton charge in Mehidipatnam to prevent protestors from taking out a huge rally from Masjid E Azizia at Humayun Nagar.

In Maharashtra, protests were held in Thane, Aurangabad, Solapur, Nandurbar, Parbhani, Beed, Latur, Bhandara, Chandrapur and Pune districts. At least 3,000 protesters, including around 1,000 women, took out a march in Navi Mumbai’s Panvel demanding the arrest of Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal.

In Karnataka’s Belagavi, miscreants hanged an effigy of Ms. Sharma from an electric wire near a mosque on Fort Road, the police said. Meanwhile, a complaint was filed at a court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar against Ms. Sharma, Mr. Jindal and religious leader Swami Yati Narsinghanand by a social activist against their alleged inflammatory statements.

Tension in Jammu

A curfew that was imposed following street protests on Thursday continued for the second day in Chenab Valley’s Bhaderwah in Jammu on Friday. Hundreds of locals had held demonstrations in Bhaderwah demanding action against a local journalist for his alleged objectionable remarks. The protests caused tension between communities, forcing authorities to impose the curfew “as a precautionary measure”. Internet services also remained suspended in Bhaderwah.

There were allegations that inflammatory speeches were made from the local grand mosque during the protests. The police have filed two FIRs as both communities alleged that “inflammatory posts and remarks” were being posted on social media.

Amid restrictions, protests were reported from Chenab Valley’s Doda and Kishtwar districts. “Efforts are on to defuse the tension in Bhaderwah town. Additional Director-General of Police [Mukesh Singh] and the Divisional Commissioner are stationed in Bhaderwah. The situation is being monitored. We will soon bring it to normalcy,” J&K Director-General of Police Dilbag Singh said.

Union Minister Jitendra Singh, an MP from the region, said he was deeply disturbed by the protests in Bhaderwah and appealed to the leaders of the two communities to come together and ensure that peace prevailed in the town.

Members of the Muslim community take out a march in Srinagar on June 10, 2022 to protest controversial remarks against Prophet Muhammad.

Members of the Muslim community take out a march in Srinagar on June 10, 2022 to protest controversial remarks against Prophet Muhammad. | Photo Credit: PTI

Shops shut in Srinagar

Street protests and a spontaneous shutdown in the Kashmir Valley affected normal life. Authorities suspended mobile Internet services in the capital Srinagar “as a precautionary measure” and all the main markets remained closed. Protests were held after Friday prayers in parts of the Valley, including Srinagar, over the remarks made by Ms. Sharma in a recent TV debate.

Officials said security was beefed up in all the volatile localities in Srinagar. However, no violence was reported during the protests and most of the demonstrators dispersed peacefully, officials said. Protesters held placards and shouted slogans in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, Batamaloo, Tengpora, Chanapora, Fateh Kadal, Mehjoor Nagar, Soura, and Buchpora.

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“Insulting the Prophet is unacceptable to Muslims. The development has deeply pained the community,” a Muslim cleric said while leading a protest in Mehjoor Nagar.

The caretakers of the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar alleged that the authorities had again disallowed Friday prayers at the mosque. Incarcerated Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in a statement, condemned the “repeated closure of the Jama Masjid”. He said anti-Kashmir and anti-Muslim measures were the hallmark of the Union government’s rule.

“By using derogatory language against Islam and the Prophet, they pronounce their hatred for both and wear it like a badge on their sleeve. Muslims are not even allowed to raise their voice against such bigotry and hatred,” he said.

Heavy security in Delhi

Heavy security was deployed in Delhi after about 300 people gathered outside Jama Masjid carrying placards and shouting slogans against Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Shweta Chauhan said the police managed to bring the situation under control within 10 to 15 minutes. “Legal action will be taken as street protests were taken out without permission,” she said.

About 200 students of Jamia Millia Islamia University protested inside the campus at 2 p.m. after prayers. They carried placards demanding Ms. Sharma’s arrest and burnt her effigy. The students said that “the BJP embarrassed India.”

“By dragging religion into almost everything, many people like Ms. Sharma and Mr. Jindal are hurting the sentiments of people and creating an environment of hate,” said Aqeel Ahmad, 21, a protester.

Clashes in West Bengal

Uluberia subdivision in West Bengal’s Howrah district continued to remain tense for the second consecutive day as protesters set several vehicles on fire and clashed with the police. For several hours, protesters blocked the main arterial roads connecting National Highway-6. They also attacked the Domjur police station and set police kiosks on fire, injuring a few police personnel. A party office of the BJP was ransacked and set on fire in Uluberia subdivision.

Protesters also blocked railway tracks between Fuleswar and Chengail stations in the Howrah-Kharagpur section, preventing several long-distance trains from resuming their journeys. In Dhulagarh, Panchla and Uluberia, videos of protesters clashing with the police surfaced. Demonstrators threw stones at the police when they tried to lift the blockade by resorting to baton charge. Protests were also held at Kolkata’s Park Circus area.

According to reports, the Bengal Imams’ Association had called for protests over the offensive remarks of the suspended BJP spokespersons. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had on Thursday appealed to the protesters to maintain calm. “I request with folded handed to lift the blockade… I do not want to use the police. But how long can people remain stuck in their vehicles?” the Chief Minister had said. She also told agitators to take their protest to BJP-ruled States.

Taking to Twitter, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar sought an update on the law and order situation in the State from the Chief Secretary. “While appealing for peace, WB Guv Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar has sought urgent personal update from CS @chief_west by 10 PM today over worsening law & order situation in State since yesterday. Expect CM Smt. Mamata Banerjee to sternly warn law violators- they will not be spared,” the Governor had tweeted.

Mr. Dhankhar said the administration should have taken preventive and precautionary measures after the blockade on Thursday as calls were made for protests to be held on Friday. State Minister Firhad Hakim said the Governor should instead tweet against “the BJP spokespersons whose remarks have stoked fire”.

Later in the evening, the West Bengal government decided to suspended Internet services on a temporary basis in Howrah district. A notification by the Home and Hill Affairs Department said Internet services would remain suspended in the jurisdiction of the Howrah Police Commissionerate and the Howrah Rural police district.

Peace prevails in Kanpur

A week after violence erupted in Kanpur, Friday prayers were held in a peaceful manner under heavy security in multiple mosques in Nai Sadak area. Section 144 of the CrPC was also imposed in the area.

Violence had erupted after Friday prayers on June 3 after a march was taken out to protest against the comments made by Ms. Sharma on Prophet Muhammed. So far, three FIRs have been filed and 55 people have been arrested in connection with the incident, the police said.

Kanpur Police Commissioner Vijay Singh Meena said that over the past two to three days, they had held talks with the members of the peace committee and religious leaders. Residents said the violence had affected business in the area.

“The police are on duty from 9 a.m. Senior officers are also on the ground. Drones have been deployed from rooftops to monitor the situation,” he said.

Twelve companies of the Pradeshik Armed Constabulary, three company of the Rapid Action Force, and seven drones have also been deployed. The local police personnel have also been pressed into action, a senior police official said.

(With inputs from Kolkata, Kanpur and agencies.)

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2022 9:03:37 am |