New Delhi, India Two teenagers were killed in violence when police cracked down on protests that broke out across the country due to derogatory statements against the Prophet Muhammad from two members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The families of Mudasir, 14, and Sahil Ansari, 19, confirmed the deaths of Al Jazeera, claiming that the police used disproportionate force against the protesters who marched in Ranchi, the capital of the eastern state of Jharkhand, after Friday prayers demanding the arrest of two BJP officials. . .
Dozens of protesters were injured after the protests turned violent. A senior Ranchi police officer was also injured, according to local media. A witness told Al Jazeera that the situation worsened after Hindus organized counter-protests.
Several calls to police in Ranchi went unanswered.
The BJP suspended its spokeswoman Nupur Sharma for making insulting remarks against the Prophet of Islam and expelled another leader, Naveen Jindal, for his anti-Islam tweet following a diplomatic backlash from Muslim countries.
The Hindu Nationalist Party said that the offensive remarks did not reflect the government’s position, and the comments were given by “border elements”.
Mudasir was shot in the head by police and he gave in to the wounds at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Uncle Shahid Ayyubi told Al Jazeera.
Sahil’s brother Faizan said he was hit by a bullet in the back when he returned home after prayer.
“The bullet exploded in his kidney and he died at the hospital after a while,” Faizan told Al Jazeera, adding that his brother was not even part of the protests. Sahil ran a battery workshop in the city.
Al Jazeera could not independently confirm the allegations from the family. However, a local news agency confirmed that they died of gunshot wounds.
A Ranchi police officer told the AFP news agency: “Police were forced to open fire to disperse protesters… resulting in two deaths.”
“The job of the police is to protect, not to shoot”
The bodies of Mudasir and Sahil were handed over to the families when the government introduced curfew-like restrictions, including the suspension of mobile internet services in the city allegedly as a security measure.
“Mudasir was a child, barely 14 years old, waiting for the result of the matriculation exam,” said Ayyubi and his voice shattered. “He took part in the protests and now he is no longer with us. He was the only child of his parents. We are shocked. “
The family demanded that the government put “the killers of Mudasir in prison and give them severe punishment”.
Ayyubi accused the government of violence and said police were handling the situation “poorly”.
“There are a thousand ways to control civilian protests such as water cannons, rubber bullets, airstrikes, but they shoot directly at the head and body,” he said.
Irfan Ansari, a Muslim lawmaker from Congress, who is part of the ruling coalition in the state, also slammed the authorities for the way the protests were handled. “The job of the police is to protect, not to shoot,” he said in a tweet in Hindi questioning the work style of the city’s police chief.
Ansari demanded five million rupees ($ 64,000) in compensation and a government job each for the families of the deceased.
Al Jazeera tried to call Anshuman Kumar, a senior police officer in Ranchi town, to get an answer, but calls were not answered.
Friday’s protests over the statements against the Prophet were seen in a number of cities and states, including the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and the capital New Delhi. The protests in India coincided with huge demonstrations held in South Asia against comments that were seen as insulting to the Prophet of Islam and his wife Aisha.
The Conservative Party, which condemned the insults of religious figures, also called on its spokesmen to be “extremely cautious” on religious issues in “debates” on Indian news channels.
New Delhi police on Thursday filed charges against the two BJP members and others – including a Muslim parliamentarian and journalist – for “inciting hatred” and other charges.
“Driven and traumatized”
Protests erupted in several places in Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state – as police used force to quell the protests.
In Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj, videos that went viral on social media showed police beating the protesters with sticks while arresting a number of them. Similar scenes were reported from the cities of Moradabad and Saharanpur where Muslims took to the streets demanding the arrest of Sharma and Jindal.
Police in the state arrested more than 200 people, including Muslim community activists.
The data shared by the police with Al Jazeera showed that 48 people have been arrested in Saharanpur, 68 in Prayagraj, 50 in Hathras, 25 in Moradabad, eight in Ferozabad and 28 in Ambedkarnagar.
Police in Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad, carried out night raids on the home of student leader Afreen Fatima, and arrested his father Mohammad Javed, mother and sister.
“First a police party came around 20.30 and took away my father, and then they came at 23.30 and arrested my mother and my sister. For the third time they came at 02.30 to arrest me, but we resisted and since then the police have blocked off our house, Fatima told Al Jazeera by phone.
“We are just women and children at home. We feel in a corner and traumatized. The police have asked us to leave the house locked. “
Fatima said police were accusing her father of being “the mastermind of the protests in the city”, a claim she rejected. “My father was not part of the protests, but he is active in civil society and a prominent Muslim voice in the city, which is why he is being targeted.”
She said police did not tell them where they took her parents and sister. “I have no idea where my father, mother and sister are. I’m worried about their safety. My father is diabetic and needs insulin injection every night. “
Muslim community leaders have condemned the “unrestrained” use of force by police in Ranchi and Uttar Pradesh.
SQR Ilyas, president of India’s Welfare Party, said police action was “unjustified” as protests were “a democratic right of the people”.
He said Muslims took to the streets because they were hurt by the insults against the Prophet.
“Instead of addressing the cause and arresting the culprits, the police have the courage to kill, arrest and bulldoze the homes of poor Muslims,” Ilyas said, questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence in the case.
However, the ruling BJP justified the detentions when party spokesman Alok Vats told Al Jazeera that protesters were referring to the stone-throwing.
“Protesting is everyone’s right, but you can not throw stones,” he said, urging Muslims to be patient and let the law run its course.