Hindu tailor killed in cleaver attack amid religious tensions in India

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People participate in the funeral procession of tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur, India, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Mobile internet services and large gatherings have been restricted in India’s western Udaipur city, a day after police arrested two
People participate in the funeral procession of tailor Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur, India, Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Mobile internet services and large gatherings have been restricted in India’s western Udaipur city, a day after police arrested two

Tensions were high in India's western Udaipur city on Wednesday, a day after police arrested two Muslim men accused of cutting a Hindu tailor's throat in a brutal attack.

Kanhaiya Lal was stabbed multiple times inside his shop by two men wielding cleavers, who also filmed the attack and posted it online, police said, warning that the incident could inflame religious tensions and lead to violence.

The video showed the tailor taking measurements of one assailant before being attacked from behind and stabbed in the throat with a cleaver.

TV reports showed film of Mr Lal lying on the ground with his throat slit.

The two men later claimed responsibility for the killing in another video and accused Mr Lal of blasphemy. They also threatened to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the same manner, brandishing the bloodstained weapons they used to attack the tailor.

Local media reported that the victim had purportedly shared a social media post supporting a suspended spokesman for Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party who made controversial remarks on the Prophet Muhammad last month.

The killing comes after months of rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims, as well as a spate of attacks by Hindu nationalists on minority groups - especially Muslims - who have been targeted for everything from their food and clothing style to interfaith marriages.

More recently, Muslim homes have also been demolished using bulldozers in some Indian states, in what critics call a growing pattern of "bulldozer justice" against the minority group.

These tensions escalated in May when two spokesmen from Mr Modi's party made speculative remarks that were seen as insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha.

Both were later suspended by the prime minister's party after it led to a severe diplomatic backlash for India from many Muslim-dominated countries.

The controversy also led to protests in India that turned violent in some places after demonstrators pelted stones at police. At least two people were killed.

Experts fear the latest incident could worsen India's religious fault lines that critics say have deepened since Mr Modi came to power in 2014.

"This gruesome incident could lead to escalated religious tensions across India, especially with the ruling party espousing a very strident Hindu majoritarian cause," said Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a public policy think tank.

"It is unlikely that this government or leadership would go out of its way to tell supporters to not get provoked, to urge for calm and peace," he said.

Police said both accused were arrested within hours of Mr Lal's death, but, in a bid to calm frayed nerves in parts of the city, authorities suspended internet services in Rajasthan state and banned large gatherings. Authorities also rushed additional police into the city to counter any religious unrest.

India's home ministry has dispatched a team of its anti-terror agency to Rajasthan to investigate whether the killing had any links to terrorist groups. So far, the state police have not charged the two arrested men with terrorism.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot pledged a speedy investigation into Mr Lal's killing. He said the criminals will be punished and urged people not to share the video on social media because of its highly inflammatory content.

"I again appeal to all to maintain peace," he said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Attacks on people accused of alleged blasphemy are common in neighbouring Muslim majority countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. But in India, where religious tensions often boil over into sporadic riots and deadly protests, incidents of brutal killings of this nature are rare.

In May, a Hindu man in the southern city of Hyderabad was stabbed to death in public by his Muslim wife's relatives.

Last year, a Muslim man was beheaded by members of a vigilante group on the orders of his girlfriend's Hindu family because they did not approve of their interfaith marriage.

In Rajasthan state in 2017, a Hindu man killed a Muslim labourer and shared a video of the victim being hacked to death and then set on fire.

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