In early December, a Hindu leader in India named Kamlesh Tiwari referred to Mohammed as “the world’s first homosexual.” This did not sit well with the local Muslim community, which called for the government to prosecute Tiwari for everything from “blasphemy” to making “anti-social” statements “designed to incite a riot.”
The Muslims also staged a series of protest marches, the most recent of which did become a riot last Sunday. Over a dozen policemen were injured in the resulting violence, according to India TV News, while about 30 vehicles were set ablaze.
The protesters blocked a national highway and disrupted train service for several hours, ransacking a train station in the process, according to the India TV News report. When a bus tried to push through the crowd, it turned violent, setting the bus on fire after the passengers evacuated it.
“There was a rally of about 2.5 lakh people, which took an ugly turn. About 25 vehicles, including some police vans, were set on fire. Policemen were beaten up but there was no severe injury. I have heard of one person sustaining a bullet injury but there is no official confirmation of it,” said Additional Superintendent of Police Dilip Hazra.
A lakh is an Indian unit of measure equivalent to one hundred thousand, so Hazra is estimating the size of the crowd at 250,000 people.
The mob eventually turned its rage against the nearby Kaliachak police station, drove the policemen away, and set the station on fire.
The rally was organized by a Muslim group called Anjuman Ahle Sunnatul Jamat, which insisted that it wanted a peaceful rally, and blamed the violence on outside agitators.
Similarly, the Hindu organization that Kamlesh Tiwari belongs to (and has claimed to be the working president of), Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, has claimed he is not actually part of the group, but was in fact an instigator sponsored by rival groups to “tarnish the image of the party,” as India TV News puts it.
On December 20, a group of Muslim clerics submitted a memorandum to the local authorities, demanding punishment for Tiwari.
“People like Kamlesh Tiwari are openly flouting the law and are trying to instigate riot-like situation in the peaceful country,” said the memo, according to the Times of India. “Persistently, anti-social elements have being [sic] trying to malign the image of Prophet Mohammed on various platforms, especially on social networking websites, where miscreants are using foul language and also making obnoxious remarks about the Prophet.”
Tiwari was actually arrested in Lucknow soon after making his remarks, evidently in a bid to disperse an angry mob of Muslim youths which had taken to the streets. Some are calling for much more than legal punishment for his remarks, as International Business Times reported in mid-December that he had become a target for jihadis demanding his death on social media.
The Indian Express reports that Tiwari remains jailed for the time being, as the Lucknow police have invoked the National Security Act against him, citing provisions that forbid “promoting enmity between groups on ground of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony” and “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”