Authorities in the western city of Udaipur, Rajasthan, have declared a curfew and blocked internet access after a video of the incident went viral on social media, sparking widespread outrage across the country.
In one video, two men can be seen starting to attack the victim. In another case, two Muslim men confess to a crime and claim to have “beheaded” a Hindu. However, state police told CNN on Wednesday that the victim had deep cuts all over his body, including cuts to his neck, but was not decapitated.
India’s Home Ministry on Wednesday said it had tasked the National Investigation Agency – the country’s main anti-terrorism task force – to investigate the case.
Two suspects allegedly killed the victim, a tailor, after a post appeared on his social media account in favor of the now-sacked national spokesman for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Nupur Sharma, who made derogatory comments about Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Hawa Singh Gumaria, a spokesman for the Rajasthan police, told CNN on Wednesday.
According to Gumaria, the victim was arrested on June 12 for allegedly “inciting religious feelings” and has since been released on bail.
State Prime Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted on Tuesday that two suspects had been arrested and an investigation was underway.
The state government responded by deploying more than 600 police officers to the area.
“This incident is very shameful,” Gumaria said at a press conference on Tuesday, before urging the public not to watch the video and calling for calm.
“There will be tension. After such an incident, there is always, but everything is under control,” he said.
The assassination has reignited the flames of an already volatile situation between India’s Hindu majority and its Muslim minority, who make up about 14% of the country’s 1.3 billion population.
Asaduddin Owaisi, an MP and president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimin political party, condemned the killing and demanded “the strictest measures” against the suspects.
“There can be no excuse for this,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “Our party consistently opposes such violence. No one can take the law into their own hands.”
Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress Party, said he was “deeply shocked” by the incident.
“Cruelty in the name of religion is unacceptable,” he wrote on Twitter. “We must unite to defeat hatred. I call on everyone to preserve peace and brotherhood.”
Tensions between Hindus and Muslims have remained constant throughout India’s modern history, escalating into violence from time to time, but analysts and activists say relations have worsened since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP came to power with a Hindu-nationalist agenda in 2014.
Since then, the ruling party has been repeatedly accused by right-wing groups, activists and opposition parties of fueling anti-Muslim sentiment.
Earlier this month, the BJP stated on its website that the party respects all religions. “The BJP strongly condemns insulting any religious figure of any religion,” the statement said.
Earlier this month, India struggled to contain the diplomatic fallout as at least 15 Muslim-majority countries condemned Sharma’s remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. The incident sparked outrage among India’s major Arab trading partners and calls from across the Persian Gulf to boycott Indian goods.
This story was updated with additional events on Wednesday.