Yesterday was Friday and there was considerable anxiety and apprehension among the public and the police alike in Hyderabad. The police were nervous but on high alert fearing a repetition of last Friday’s incidents after Friday prayers.

In my last post I said the cartoon controversy received only a mute reaction from Indian Muslims. But last Friday (17 Feb 2006) the Muslim community in Old City (the stronghold of Muslims) of Hyderabad indulged in violent protests.

The riot broke out as a protest meeting and procession that was planned for the afternoon (after the usual Friday prayers) went out of control and spread to the neighboring areas. There were attempts at widening the conflict by attacking Hindu temples. The police did a commendable job by bringing the situation under control by evening.

The riot claimed no lives but caused considerable damage to public and private properties and sent shock waves throughout the city. Somprominent politicians and others have been taken into custody.

Old City of Hyderabad is one of the worst violence prone spots in India. Since any communally sensitive issue can plunge the region into violence, the police always keep vigil and remain ready to prevent a flare up.

The same day a minister in the North Indian State of Uttar Pradesh announced a reward of 51 crore rupees (11491427 USD) for beheading the Danish cartoonist. (Apparently he believes that the caricatures were by one cartoonist). He was speaking in an after prayer meeting in the city of Merut. The minister instructed his listeners to be true to their faith by going after the cartoonist’s head.

His outburst provoked widespread condemnation even from Muslims. The government should have thrown him out of the ministry and arrested him for attempting to instigate violence and preaching death. Instead the U.P. Government made light of it by saying, “The minister’s reaction was the voice of someone whose religious sentiments have been hurt”.

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