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Curfew imposed as sectarian tension soars after a brutal murder in India

Smoke rises from a burning material while people gather on road as tensions rise after killing of a Hindu man, in Udaipur
Smoke rises from a fire in the road as people gather amid tension following the killing of a Hindu man in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, June 28, 2022, in a still image obtained from a handout video. ANI/Handout/REUTERS

New Delhi — The gruesome murder of a Hindu man, recorded on cellphones by his alleged killers, has exacerbated religious tension in the western Indian state of Rajasthan. Authorities have banned large gatherings and suspended internet services across the state and a curfew has been imposed in the Udaipur district, where the murder took place.

Additional police forces have been deployed to prevent any violence. 

Authorities say the victim, a tailor named Kanhaiya Lal, was killed Tuesday in his shop by two Muslim men, purportedly for supporting a politician who made derogatory remarks against Islam's Prophet Muhammad earlier this month.

Both men accused of carrying out the attack, Gos Mohammad and Mohammad Riyaz, have been arrested.

The two men walked into the victim's shop on Tuesday afternoon posing as customers. Video shot by the suspects shows the tailor measuring one of them before being attacked suddenly. Police have said the suspects tried to behead the victim but failed.

One of the accused men recorded the entire incident on his cell phone and then posted the video on social media. The suspects posted another video in which they can be heard boasting about the murder while holding meat cleavers and threatening Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the video, they claim the act was to avenge insulting remarks made about Islam's prophet by Nupur Sharma, a former member of Modi's ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) who was later fired amid a fierce national and international backlash.

Protest against the killing of a Hindu man, in New Delhi
Activists of Bajrang Dal, a hardline Hindu group, shout slogans during a protest against the killing of a Hindu man in the city of Udaipur, a day after two Muslim men posted a video claiming responsibility for slaying him, in New Delhi, India, June 29, 2022. AMIT DAVE/REUTERS

Sharma's controversial comments on the Prophet Muhammed earlier this month angered many predominantly Muslim nations, with some registering strong formal protests with Indian officials.

The victim of Tuesday's attack allegedly posted a message supporting Sharma on social media earlier this month, over which he had received death threats. He was himself arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiments, but later released on bail.

His wife Jashoda told Indian news network NDTV that before Tuesday, he'd skipped work for several days over the threats to his life.

Hawasingh Ghumaria, a senior police officer, asked news organizations not to broadcast the video of the murder, saying "it is too grisly to watch."

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the "shameful" murder was "meant to spread terror," and he appealed to residents of the state to remain calm.

The federal government has asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India's primary anti-terrorism agency, to investigate the murder.

"The involvement of any organization and international links will be thoroughly investigated," vowed Indian Home Minister Amit Shah in a tweet.

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