Massive rallies were taken out in India over insults to Prophet Muhammad by two officials of the country's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A massive protest gathering was seen outside the iconic Jama Masjid in New Delhi, the country's capital, shortly after the weekly Friday prayers against BJP officials Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal.
The protesters demanded the arrest of Sharma, a BJP spokeswoman, who was formally charged by Delhi police on Thursday.
The Jama Masjid's Shahi Imam, or prayer leader, later told local media that the mosque authorities did not issue a call for the protest.
A large number of police contingents were stationed outside the mosque to prevent any untoward incidents.
The protesters dispersed peacefully after registering their strong opposition.
Delhi police later said in a statement: “People protested at Jama Masjid against the statements of suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma and expelled BJP leader Naveen Kumar Jindal. The situation is under control now.”
Protests were also organized in other parts of the country, including the cities of Hyderabad, Kolkata, Saharanpur and Moradabad.
There were reports of clashes between police and protesters in Ranchi, Jharkand. The situation is said to be tense but under control.
Following last week's communal clashes in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, police increased security to avoid a repeat of the incident.
On Sunday, the BJP suspended Sharma's membership and expelled Jindal from the party, citing comments he made about Islam on social media.
Sharma had made insulting remarks against Prophet Muhammad in a television debate, triggering a wave of condemnations within India and from the Islamic world.
More than a dozen countries – as well as international organizations – condemned the controversial remarks.
Shutdown in Kashmir
A shutdown protest was observed in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, in response to the insulting remarks.
Small groups of people held a protest in Nawa Kadal and Lal Chowk areas of the capital.
At Nawa Kadal, the protesters shouting Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), tried to march on the road but were stopped by the police, according to witnesses.
A protest was held near the iconic Clock Tower in Lal Chowk against Sharma’s remarks, which sparked outrage in the Muslim world, prompting the BJP to suspend her and expel another party member who had supported her.
Protests have become rare in Kashmir since Aug 5, 2019, when the Hindu nationalist Indian government scrapped the only Muslim-majority region’s autonomy.
Authorities imposed a curfew in two Muslim-majority districts of Jammu province, Doda and Kishtwar, after a speech in a mosque against Sharma’s remarks raised communal tensions.
Fearing communal clashes, the Indian army staged a flag march in the town where curfew had been imposed. A flag march is a practice in which soldiers march through restricted streets to send out a message that no disturbance would be tolerated.