New Delhi — Indian authorities suspended internet service and deployed thousands of paramilitary and police forces Monday to the northern state of Haryana as deadly sectarian violence spread toward India’s sprawling capital city. At least one person was killed and 20 others injured in the clashes that erupted Monday afternoon.
Two police officers were among the injured, officials said. Several cars torched by angry mobs.
The violence started after the right-wing Hindu groups, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, led a religious procession through a Muslim-majority part of Haryana’s Nuh district.
Indian media said the clashes began after a video was posted on social media by Monu Manesar, a member of Bajrang Dal who’s wanted by police as a suspect in the murder of two Muslim men whose bodies were set on fire in February. Manesar announced plans to join the religious procession in the video — seen as a direct challenge to the local Muslim community.
“Our first priority is to bring the situation under control. We are appealing to all to maintain peace. We are also trying to send forces by helicopter,” Haryana home minister Anil Vij was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.
Police used teargas and fired rounds into the air to disperse crowds as the clashes spread to the Delhi suburbs of Gurugram, Faribad and Palwal. The police also banned assemblies of four or more people in the violence-hit areas.
The Haryana state government said it was banning all mobile internet and SMS services in Nuh district until August 2, “in order to stop the spread of misinformation and rumors through various social media platforms.”
India has grappled with sectarian violence since former colonial power Britain divided the country into modern-day, Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan in 1947.
The partition of the country prompted a mass exodus of tens of millions of people and is considered one of the deadliest mass-migrations in human history, with an estimated one million people believed to have been killed in an initial bout of sectarian conflict.
But Hindu-Muslimin India has been on the rise in recent years, with hundreds more people losing their lives, including more than 50 who were killed in that erupted in Delhi in 2020.
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