Far-right Indian group launches ‘Hindu protection helpline’

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A far-right group in India has launched what it calls a helpline for Hindus who are feeling threatened or victimised by “jihadi forces” in the aftermath of two brutal killings in the country.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) launched the helpline in 20 regions on Friday and encouraged Hindus to come forward and file complaints in local police stations if they face intimidation over social media posts.

The VHP is an umbrella group of Hindu outfits and is an ally of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In a video statement on Twitter, VHP’s joint secretary general Surendra Jain said the helpline aimed to protect Hindus for their comments on social media.

The move came days after a Hindu tailor, Kanhaiya Lal, was beheaded in the western city of Udaipur by two cleaver-wielding Muslim men in a religious killing that has fuelled heightened communal tensions in the area and across the country.

The two men had gloated on camera about killing the Hindu man in retaliation for his alleged support for controversial and derogatory remarks made by a now-suspended spokesperson for Mr Modi’s ruling party about the Prophet Muhammad. They had also threatened to murder Mr Modi.

Last week, Umesh Kolhe, a chemist from the state of Maharashtra, was also killed allegedly for supporting former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.

Ms Sharma had made the inflammatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha on a television show in May.

Her comments had put the country at the centre of a diplomatic storm after more than a dozen Muslim-majority countries issued statements of condemnation. There have also been protests in different parts of India, neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh against Ms Sharma’s statements, demanding police action against her.

To control the fallout, the BJP suspended Ms Sharma but stopped short of apologising, only saying that the party “strongly denounces insults of any religious personalities”.

On Friday, citing the murders of Kolhe and Lal, Mr Jain said Islamic fundamentalists were attempting to spread an atmosphere of terror and violence.

“Issuing death threats for objectionable posts on social media will not be tolerated by the Hindu society,” he said.

“VHP appeals to the entire Hindu society to approach police stations if they receive such threats. If the police refuse help, then members of the VHP as well as its youth wing Bajrang Dal will come to help Hindus immediately.”

“What is shocking is that Muslims have condemned the murders in Amravati and Udaipur, but not a single Maulvi [preacher] has issued a fatwa [Islamic directive].”

He claimed that the messages of solidarity were only meant to fool Hindus.

The VHP added that it would chalk out a plan along with the Bajrang Dal, another Hindu right-wing organisation, to help police and local administrations to file complaints and prevent communal tensions that may arise out of such threats, reported The Times of India.

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