Muslims coming out of a mosque after Friday prayers in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district allegedly attacked those shop-owners who refused to heed their call for keeping the local market shut in protest of BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s “blasphemous” statements where she is accused to have 'spoken ill of Islam'.
Earlier in the day, Muslim groups had pasted posters at several places saying “bazaar band” (market closed). Several Hindu shopowners had opposed the call.
As per an India Today report, the clashes took place at Parade Market, which is one of the biggest wholesale markets in Kanpur city. Reports say over a dozen people, including some policemen, are left injured.
During a television debate on the ongoing Gyanwapi mosque issue, Sharma had asked a Muslim panelist if he would tolerate jokes on Islam’s founder that he married a six-year-old girl at a time when the Muslim side is making obscene jokes on Shivalinga.
Sharma is national spokesperson for the BJP and a leader of the Delhi unit of the party. Sharing a clip from the debate where Sharma was seen making her point, co-founder of a 'fact-checking' website, Mohammed Zubair, called Sharma a “rabid communal hatemonger”.
The same day, Sharma shared several posts on her Twitter account, in which she was tagged. The posts carried death threats against her for “blasphemy”. One Twitter user had written that Sharma is “gustakh-e-Rasul” (one who insults Prophet). Another user had written that her offence is “punishable by death”.
Sharma tagged the verified Twitter accounts of Delhi Police and Delhi police commissioner and said that she was getting continuous death and beheading threats. She said that the threats were egged on by Zubair “because of his attempts to incite communal passions and vitiate the atmosphere by building a fake narrative”.
In response, Zubair simply evaded responsibility saying that by sharing Sharma’s clip, he had done his job “as a journalist”.
Fatwas and FIRs
After the controversy grew online, a Pakistani Twitter account named ‘Labbaikians TV’ announced a cash reward of Pakistani Rupees 5 million to “beheader” Sharma.
The account routinely shared videos of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a hardline Muslim organisation that incites people to violence against blasphemy.
Next, head of an Indian Muslim organisation named AIMIM (Inquilab) announced a bounty of Rs 1 crore for anyone who would kill Sharma. Qazi Abbasi called Sharma a “white collar prostitute”.
At least three police cases have been filed against Sharma at various police stations across the country for “deliberately hurting religious sentiments” and “hate speech”.
The first FIR was filed by Pydhonie police in Mumbai on complaint by a member of the controversial Muslim organisation Raza Academy.
The second FIR was filed by Mumbra police in Thane based on complaint by a madrassa teacher named Mohammed Gufran Khan.
The third FIR was filed by Bhiwandi police in Thane, again on complaint by a member of the Raza Academy.
In all these cases, Sharma has been booked under IPC sections 153a (inciting riots) and 295a (deliberately hurting sentiments) and 298 (hate speech) besides other charges.
The Hyderabad Cyber Crime police too filed an FIR against her, on a complaint by a sub-inspector of Police cyber crimes. In some of the above-listed cases, Times Now, the channel on which the debate was aired, is also named as a suspect.
Violence over “blasphemy”
Blasphemy has emerged as the reason behind some of the most terrifying killings in various parts of the world lately. India, that saw such a murder as early as 1929 in the run-up to its partition, is also part of the current trend with Kamlesh Tiwari’s killing in October 2019, preceded by dismembering of Kerala professor TJ Joseph in 2010 and, most recently, the murder of Kishen Bharwad in Gujarat in January this year.
In all these murders, the trigger was a statement made by the victims that fanatics construed as insult to Islam’s founder.
In 2020, when a Dalit youth from Bangalore shared a Facebook post criticising Islam’s founder, a Muslim mob rioted in the city, burning down public and private property. Months later, a massive rally was carried out in Bhopal with ‘sar tan se juda’ slogans against the youth.
After a similar “blasphemous” statement made last year by Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, a temple priest, lakhs of Muslims took to streets to protest against Saraswati, many giving out similar beheading calls for him.
Aam Aadmi Party MLA Amanatullah Khan, too, called for his beheading as the just punishment for “blasphemers”.
Khan tweeted that Narasinghanand’s tongue and head should be chopped off, but because Indian law does not allow him to do so, the Delhi police should take cognisance of the statement made by the priest.
Most dastardly blasphemy killings
The most prominent of the cases known worldwide is the Charlie Hebdo killings in France in 2015. The office of the weekly publication in Paris was attacked by a group that murdered 12 people, including staff cartoonists and two policemen. Earlier, the publication’s office was firebombed over depictions of Mohammed.
Another murder that stunned France as well as the rest of the world is that of Samuel Paty last year. The French schoolteacher was killed in October after a man — father of a girl student — ran an online campaign against Paty over blasphemy.
Last month, a group of college students in Nigeria dragged a woman classmate out of her hostel room, killed her and burnt her body after accusing her of insulting Prophet Mohammed in a voice message on phone.
Last year, a Sri Lankan national working as a factory manager in Pakistan was lynched by a mob and burnt after he tore down posters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik from the factory walls and threw them in dustbin. Mobile-shot videos showed the mob saying this: ‘Kaafir ke bachche ne Quran ki aayatein dustbin mein fainki hain (son of a kaafir has thrown verses of Quran in dustbin.” It was later revealed that the posters carried some verses from Quran.
In March this year, three madrassa teachers in Pakistan killed a fellow woman teacher for blasphemy. They told the local police that a minor girl from their family saw a dream the previous night that the victim had committed blasphemy.
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