Muslims in India have taken to the streets to protest against anti-Islamic comments made by two members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Two protesters died of gunshot injuries sustained during clashes with police in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state. Ten people were being treated for various injuries at the hospital.
Senior police official Surendra Kumar Jha said at least 14 police officials were injured in the incident in Ranchi and other areas.
In northern Uttar Pradesh state police said they had arrested 230 alleged rioters after unrest spread across several towns after Friday prayers.
In the eastern state of West Bengal, authorities enforced an emergency law prohibiting public gatherings in the industrial district of Howrah until June 16. At least 70 people were arrested on charges of rioting and disturbing public order, with internet services suspended for more than 48 hours after the latest communal violence.
Earlier this month, the BJP suspended its spokeswoman Nupur Sharma and expelled another leader, Naveen Kumar Jindal, for their controversial comments about the Prophet’s private life that also triggered a diplomatic backlash from Muslim countries.
Police cases have been filed against the two former BJP officials.
Countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, and Iran – India’s key trade partners – lodged protests through diplomatic channels and used social media to demand an apology from the government.
India’s foreign ministry said last week the tweets and comments did not reflect the views of the government.
Clashes over the remarks simmered across the country, as some in the Muslim community see them as the latest instance of pressure and humiliation under the BJP rule on issues ranging from freedom of worship to the wearing of hijab head scarves.
The BJP leadership has issued instructions to several senior members to be “extremely cautious” when talking about religion on public platforms and the government continues to tighten public security.