Calls for justice grow after a video of policemen purportedly torturing nine Muslim men in western Gujarat state goes viral.
Nine Muslims have been publicly flogged by policemen in the western Indian state of Gujarat after being accused of throwing stones at a Hindu religious event.
A video of the police flogging quickly went viral on social media, drawing criticism from politicians and civil rights activists alike.
Stone pelting was reported on Monday at the Garba event during Navratri celebrations in Undhela village in Gujarat's Kheda district. The event was held in a location near a mosque.
Garba is a type of dance performed during Navratri, a Hindu festival honouring the Hindu goddess Durga.
According to police, at least six people were injured in the stone pelting.
The police arrested nine people for allegedly throwing stones and instead of taking them to the court brought them to the village on Tuesday.
The Muslim men were then tied to a pole and publicly flogged by the police amidst cheering by the locals, who reportedly raised religious slogans.
"A group of Muslim youth tried to disrupt the celebration at the village. The Muslim youth had an objection to organising this celebration near a mosque," Deputy Superintendent of Police V R Bajpai told reporters.
According to the police, a case was filed against 43 people at Matar Police Station, and 13 were arrested.
New India is Medieval India: Nine Muslim men are being publicly flogged while crowd is doing nationalist chant in Modi’s state Gujarat! pic.twitter.com/nMcBQKy0IO— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) October 4, 2022
Meanwhile, a member of Gujarat's Legislative Assembly from the opposition Congress party, Gyasudding Sheikh, has demanded action against the policemen.
"The government must immediately take action against those policemen involved in flogging. The police have no right to do this against the accused publicly," he told reporters in Ahmadabad.
Another Congress leader, Karti P Chidambaram, took to Twitter to criticise the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for turning India into a Hindutva (Hindu fundamentalist) state.
"What next, public beheadings? And the chants?" he asked.
In a statement, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) also criticised the police action.
"Police in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party-ruled Gujarat state publicly flogged 9 Muslim men in front of a cheering crowd chanting 'Hail Mother India' slogans. This is cruel, inhuman & prohibited under the international human rights Law," the statement said.
In the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, the police demolished the houses of three Muslims accused of throwing stones at a Garba event and attacking organisers.
A case was registered against 19 people in Surjani village in the Mandsaur district for disrupting a Garba celebration.
The police claimed that the houses were illegally constructed, so they were demolished.
According to the local English daily Hindustan Times, at least 14 Muslim men were arrested in Madhya Pradesh's Indore city over the last week after "vigilantes" from the Hindu nationalist organisation Bajrang Dal handed them over to the police for allegedly entering Garba venues.
According to the report, the arrested men "were clicking pictures and disturbing the peace."
The men arrested were charged with violating Section 151 of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits knowingly joining or continuing in an assembly of five or more people with the intent to disturb the public peace.
Modi's government has been accused of clamping down on dissent and promoting discriminatory policies toward the country's 200-million-strong Muslim minority since coming to power in 2014.
Hindus make up the overwhelming majority of India's 1.4 billion people but when Mahatma Gandhi secured its independence from Britain in 1947 it was as a secular, multi-cultural state.
Now far-right calls for the country to be declared a Hindu nation and Hindu supremacy to be enshrined in law are growing rapidly louder, making its Muslims increasingly anxious about their future.
Those demands are at the core of Hindu nationalist Modi's popularity, and his government has backed policies and projects across the country that reinforce and symbolise the trend.
Modi owes its origins to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militaristic group espousing "Hindutva", or making India an exclusively Hindu state.
Lynchings of Muslims by Hindu mobs over so-called cow protection and other hate crimes have sown fear among Muslims.
Social media is full of misinformation claiming that Muslims will soon outnumber Hindus — due to inter-religious marriages — or that the minority is a treasonous fifth column backed by Pakistan.