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Amnesty says India should stop ‘vicious’ Muslim protest crackdown

A top human rights group says India must immediately end a “vicious” crackdown on Muslims who took to the streets to protest against the ruling party official’s remarks about Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisha.

Authorities were “selectively and viciously cracking down on Muslims who dare to speak up … against the discrimination faced by them,” Amnesty International’s Aakar Patel said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Cracking down on protesters with excessive use of force, arbitrary detention and punitive house demolitions … is in complete violation of India’s commitments under international human rights law.”

Thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets across India to protest against anti-Islamic comments made by two members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Two Muslim teenagers were killed and hundreds of others arrested last week in nationwide protests over the comments, which embroiled India in a diplomatic furore and caused widespread outrage in the Muslim world.

Amnesty demanded an “immediate and unconditional release” of the jailed protesters.

‘Collective extrajudicial punishment’

Also on Tuesday, in a letter to the chief justice of India’s Supreme Court, six prominent former judges and six senior lawyers said the government in Uttar Pradesh state had acted illegally by demolishing the house of a Muslim activist following the protests.

State chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a saffron-robed BJP hardliner, ordered the weekend demolition of any illegal buildings of people accused of involvement in violence last week, including the home of activist Mohammad Javed on Sunday.

Adityanath, one of India’s most prominent Hindu nationalist politicians, is known for his sectarian rhetoric against India’s 200-million strong Muslim minority. He has repeatedly called on authorities to demolish the homes of people accused of crimes, an exhortation critics say violates constitutional and human rights laws that ban collective punishment.

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