How an ‘inflammatory’ Facebook post led to murder and sectarian tensions in India

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Two sons of Kanhaiyalal Teli, a Hindu tailor, who was killed by two suspected Muslims after filming themselves killing him, carry a portrait of their father after a prayer meeting in Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan, in the northwest India, June 30, 2022. REUTERS / Amit Dave

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UDAIPUR, India, July 1 (Reuters) – Two weeks before a Hindu tailor in India was stabbed to death by two Muslim men who filmed the act, he was briefly detained by police after a rival tailor accused him of posting an “inflammatory” message on Facebook. on the Prophet Mohammad.

Kanhaiyalal Teli’s son told Reuters his father reposted a Facebook post in support of a now-suspended spokesman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, whose inflammatory remarks about the prophet during a debate televised caused national and international outrage in June. Read more

“My father was a very good man, he never had problems with anyone,” Teli’s son Yash, 20, told Reuters, his head shaved according to Hindu custom after the death of a relative. “Just a repost of a message on Facebook, and they killed it. Before that, Hindus and Muslims lived together peacefully in this area.”

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Modi’s pursuit of a “Hindu first” agenda since coming to power in 2014 has heightened communal tensions in India, a country with an appalling history of violence between Hindus and Muslims. Many Muslims, who make up 13% of the 1.3 billion population, complain of feeling marginalized by Modi’s policies.

Video of Teli being killed in the northwestern Indian city of Udaipur, posted by his assailants, has gone viral on social media, shocking many people in the Hindu-majority country. Fearing an outbreak of community violence, local authorities banned large gatherings for a month and suspended internet services.

A few days after being released, Teli told police that people were carrying out a reconnaissance of his store and that he feared for his life.

In a police complaint seen by Reuters, he said he knew his picture had gone viral in Muslim community WhatsApp groups and that he needed protection.

A police officer said on condition of anonymity that two gendarmes were deployed to the area after the complaint but “relaxed” when Teli did not open his store for a few days.

The tailor reopened his shop over the weekend, his son said, and was killed on Tuesday.

Two Muslim men, who brandished a meat cleaver while claiming responsibility for the Teli massacre and threatening Modi with the same fate, have been arrested and face terrorism charges, police said. They worked in Udaipur but Teli did not know them, his son said.

Nonetheless, the video showed he seemed unsuspecting as he used tape to measure a bearded man’s chest just before he was attacked.

‘LOOSE TONGUE’

In unusually strong comments, India’s Supreme Court on Friday said spokesman Nupur Sharma of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was “solely responsible” for creating a situation that led to the murder.

“She and her loose tongue set the whole country on fire,” Judge Surya Kant said, rejecting a motion by Sharma to combine police complaints filed against her across the country into one. “His explosion is responsible for the unfortunate incident in Udaipur.

Political analysts and opposition parties say tensions between the two communities are beginning to boil under the eight-year rule of Modi and the BJP.

The party says it works for everyone but does not believe in appeasing a community for votes. He asked people to keep calm after the Udaipur incident.

Teli was reported to the police by Muslim tailor Nazim Ahmed on June 11 in a complaint, seen by Reuters, which read: “He published an indecent comment on the character of our Prophet for which there is anger in our Muslim society. must be taken against said culprit” for his “incendiary post”.

Reuters could not contact Ahmed because his phone was switched off. His store, across from Teli’s, was closed.

The police barricaded the Muslim neighborhood where Ahmed lives and prevented journalists from approaching his family.

Opposition politicians have condemned Teli’s killing and called for swift justice, but they also say the BJP has hurt Muslim sentiment by failing to press for legal action against its spokesperson.

Alka Lamba of the main opposition Congress party, which rules the state of Rajasthan where Udaipur is located, said “eight years of BJP rule has nurtured and sustained the monster of communalism”. Two BJP spokespersons did not answer their phones.

Teli’s wife, Yashoda, with her face partially veiled, accused the police of her husband’s death.

“If the police had helped us, he would have stayed alive,” she said. “He had to reopen the store because we were running out of savings. My husband was friends with everyone, including Nazim, so somewhere in his mind he wasn’t that worried.”

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Additional reporting by Suchitra Mohanty in New Delhi Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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