Police fired on a crowd in the eastern Indian city of Ranchi after a large number of Muslims took to the streets following Friday prayers to protest remarks by a ruling party official.
Indian police have shot and killed two protesters and arrested more than 130 others during rallies sparked by a ruling party official's remarks about Prophet Muhammad.
Anger has engulfed Muslims in India and abroad since last week, when a spokesperson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party made derogatory remarks against the Prophet during a heated TV debate.
Muslims took to the streets after Friday prayers in huge numbers across India and neighbouring countries to condemn the remarks, with police firing on a crowd in the eastern city of Ranchi.
"Police were forced to open fire to disperse protesters...resulting in the death of two," a police officer from Ranchi in Jharkhand state said. Later, authorities cut internet connections in the city and imposed a curfew.
Officers said the crowd had defied their orders not to march from a mosque to a market and thrown broken bottles and stones when police attempted to disperse the rally with a baton charge.
Indian police reportedly shoot and kill two demonstrators as they try to disperse people protesting derogatory comments about Prophet Muhammad pic.twitter.com/UrmfrCW4s2— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) June 11, 2022
Police in Uttar Pradesh fired tear gas to disperse at least one rally after several demonstrations were staged across the northern state.
Most protests ended peacefully but demonstrators in some cities had thrown stones at police and injured at least one officer, said Avanish Awasthi, a senior government secretary in the state.
"We will take strict action against those indulging in stone pelting and violence," Awasthi told reporters. "Those working behind the scene, instigating violence, will not be spared at all."
Prashant Kumar, a senior police officer, said up to "136 protesting miscreants" had been arrested from six districts around Uttar Pradesh.
Cities around India saw sizeable demonstrations on Friday, with some crowds burning effigies of Nupur Sharma — the now-suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson whose comments set off the furore.
Sharma's remarks have embroiled India in a diplomatic storm, with the governments of nearly 20 countries calling in their Indian envoys for an explanation.
Leaders from countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have demanded apologies from the Indian government after the anti-Muslim comment.
The BJP has gone into damage control, suspending Sharma from its ranks and issuing a statement in which the party insisted it respected all religions.
Friday saw the biggest street rallies yet in response to the furore, with police estimating more than 100,000 people mobilised across Bangladesh after midday prayers.
Another 5,000 people took to the streets in the Pakistani city of Lahore at the behest of a radical religious party, calling on their government to take stronger action against India over the comments.
Following backlash from Muslim nations, India's ruling party suspends official over derogatory comments about Prophet Muhammed pic.twitter.com/ouyUXhgSLo— TRT World (@trtworld) June 8, 2022