Amnesty condemns ‘excessive force’ used during Prophet Muhammad protests in India

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US condemns ‘offensive comments’ made by Indian ruling party officials on Prophet Muhammad

Amnesty International has urged authorities in India to stop using excessive force while responding to protests that have swept across the country in recent days over comments against Prophet Muhammad.

“The Government of India is selectively and viciously cracking down on Muslims who dare to speak up and peacefully express their dissent against the discrimination faced by them,” said Aakar Patel, chair of Amnesty International India Board.

“Cracking down on protesters with excessive use of force, arbitrary detention and punitive house demolitions by Indian authorities is in complete violation of India’s commitments under international human rights law and standards.”

The statement came just two days after authorities in Uttar Pradesh demolished houses of Muslims accused of violence in protests last Friday against comments made by Nupur Sharma, a former spokesperson of prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Earlier this month, Ms Sharma was suspended from the party’s primary membership, and Naveen Jindal, the party’s chief of media for its Delhi unit, was expelled after the Indian government faced backlash from over a dozen West Asian countries.

However, protests have taken place in India as well as in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Last week, protests in India turned violent in several places after Friday prayers. At least two people died of gunshot wounds during clashes with police in Jharkhand’s Ranchi city.

“On 10 June, media reported an incident where police personnel can be seen striking batons, pelting stones and shooting bystanders during protests in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Another bystander was shot six times by the police while returning from the market. Two protesters including a 15-year-old child was fatally shot in the head by the police,” Amnesty’s statement noted.

Clashes were also reported in the states of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

Videos circulated on social media showed a police officer repeatedly hitting detained male protesters with batons in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The video was shared widely by BJP politicians and former police officers.

On Tuesday, 12 retired judges and senior lawyers filed a letter petition in the Supreme Court, urging it to take suo motu cognizance of state and police violence against Muslim protesters in Uttar Pradesh.

“Such a brutal clampdown by a ruling administration is an unacceptable subversion of the rule of law and a violation of the rights of citizens and makes a mockery of the constitution and fundamental rights guaranteed by the state,” the petition said in reference to the videos on social media as well as demolition of houses.

“Presenting and treating all protesters, including peaceful ones, as a threat for public order is deeply worrying and is part of an alarming escalation of the states’ measures targeting Muslims,” Mr Patel said.

While the BJP had issued a statement earlier this month, distancing itself from the views of Ms Sharma and Mr Jindal, the prime minister’s silence has been questioned by critics.

“Unfortunately, the prime minister and various state chief ministers have done little to show that they disapprove of any statement portraying Muslims as a risk for public order or embedding other stereotypes and prejudices that may contribute to justifying discrimination and violence against Muslims,” Mr Patel added.

“They should publicly show their opposition for any such statement.”

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