Mild tension was palpable in some parts of the Old City after videos were released of Bharatiya Janata Party legislator T Raja Singh in which he purportedly used objectionable language against Prophet Muhammad.
Dozens of Muslim youths converged near the Hyderabad City Police Commissioner’s office late on Monday night and raised slogans against the BJP lawmaker who represents the Goshamahal constituency. They demanded that police “wake up”, take action and arrest Mr Singh. The protest and sit-in near the Commissioner’s office went on till around 6.30 a.m. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen legislator Ahmed Balala arrived at the scene too.
According to eyewitnesses, the protest was not carried out under any banner and seemed spontaneous. “Young men from all over the city have arrived here after watching the video or hearing about it,” a man who joined the protest said.
As the day progressed, video clips of Mr Singh’s comments began to be shared on social media. However, it was later made inaccessible. As word spread, shops and other business establishments in neighbourhoods with a substantial Muslim population began to close for the day. Sporadic protests against Mr Singh’s utterances were scattered across the city, and were seen in areas such as Charminar.
For instance, shops in and around Nayapul, Madina, Nampally and Pathergatti began to roll down their shutters around 12 noon. Some people were seen informing others of Mr Singh’s objectionable utterances and requesting them to close their shops.
It was only after 2.30 p.m. that commercial areas such as Chattabazaar and Shalibanda began to close. The glittering lacquered bangle market of Lad Bazaar bore a sombre look as nearly half-a-dozen black flags, a mark of protest against Mr Singh’s comments, appeared on the streets. Black flags were also seen in other locations such as Khilwat and Misri Gunj.
Two or three small groups of youths on two-wheelers, also carrying black flags, and raising slogans were also seen near Aliabad.
However, in neighbourhoods in the interiors of the Old City most shops remained open. In these areas, while some remained closed, others rolled down shutters halfway and continued to open for business.
However, the scenario began to change towards the evening. As news of Mr Singh’s release spread, young men began to gather in large numbers in areas such as Dabeerpura, Saidabad, and near the Chanchalguda jail. They continued to raise slogans against the BJP legislator and demanded his arrest. Protesters carrying black flags walked in the streets of Barkas. There was an increase in constabulary and patrolling too became more intense and frequent.