India ruling party legislator arrested over prophet remarks amid protests

Show caption T Raja Singh greeted by supporters after he was released by a court on bail in Hyderabad. Photograph: Reuters India India ruling party legislator arrested over prophet remarks amid protests T Raja Singh suspended earlier this week for hate speech after allegedly abusive comments Shaikh Azizur Rahman @AzizurTweets Fri 26 Aug 2022 11.10 BST Share on Facebook

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Police in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad have arrested a suspended leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) for making allegedly abusive remarks about the prophet Muhammad.

Police arrested T Raja Singh, 45, on Thursday after thousands of Muslims took to the streets in the city protesting against his speech.

After his arrest under the Preventive Detention Act, police alleged in a statement that he had been “habitually delivering provocative and inflammatory speeches and driving a wedge between communities leading to public disorder”.

The police also accused him of being involved in 18 “communal offences” in the past.

Singh, a two-time legislator in the assembly of Telangana state, of which Hyderabad is the capital, was arrested two days after the BJP had reportedly suspended him for his alleged hate speeches and related activities.

Three months ago, the former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma made an anti-Islam comment that sparked massive international outrage, with many Muslim countries condemning India. BJP was forced to suspend her from the party.

Suspending Singh on Tuesday, the central disciplinary committee of BJP said his views were his own and “contrary to the party’s position”. Singh was also asked to explain why he should not be expelled from the party.

The issue arose two weeks ago when Singh threatened to violently disrupt the Hyderabad show of the Muslim comedian Munawar Faruqui. Singh claimed Faruqui had made jokes about Hindu gods and offended the sentiments of Hindus.

In a video released on social media, Singh threatened to “burn down” the venue of Faruqui’s show. “We will beat him up and throw him out of Telangana. None can stop us – this is a challenge,” he said.

In another video, released on 22 August, Singh disparaged the prophet Muhammad.

In protest against his latest video on Tuesday, thousands of Muslims in Hyderabad burned effigies of Singh and demanded his arrest. Police arrested Singh immediately but he was released on bail hours later because of a “technical error”.

After Singh was released on Tuesday, Hindu supporters greeted him with garlands.

“I did not name any religious community in my video speech. I targeted only Faruqui and I stand by my statement … I will release a second video on this issue soon.” Singh said. His party suspended him shortly afterwards.

Singh has long been accused of issuing comments targeting Islam and Muslims. Although many call him a “hatemonger”, to his supporters and Hindu rightwing groups he is viewed as a “firebrand Hindu hero” and a “saviour of Hinduism”.

In 2020, Facebook suspended him for violation of its policies on hate speech.

The Delhi-based Muslim community leader Zafarul-Islam Khan said: “Many BJP leaders target Muslims the way Singh does. Hate and othering of Muslims is a major plank of the Hindu nationalist party’s political strategy in the Hindu-majority country.”

The BJP has been contacted for comment about Khan’s statement.

Asaduddin Owaisi, the Hyderabad-based Muslim leader and MP, said, Singh was a “threat to peace” in the country.