BENGALURU, April 18 (Reuters) – At least 88 people have been arrested in India in connection with violence against police after a comment insulting Muslims went viral on social media, police said on Monday.
A mob attacked police and vandalized public property on Saturday night in Hubli, 480 km (250 miles) north of Bengaluru, after the derogatory message spread on Whatsapp, police said.
Twelve police officials were injured in the violence even though the person who posted the message had already been arrested.
“People still gathered near the police station … The mob pelted stones at police, tried to enter the police station and damaged police vehicles,” said Labhu Ram, a senior police official probing the incident.
Clashes have broken out between the majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities during religious processions in several parts of India in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has emboldened hardline religious groups to take up causes that they say defend the Hindu faith, although his party has denied any rise in communal tensions.
Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi played down the violence and said in an interview published on Sunday that intolerance among religious communities was not worsening.
In another incident of communal violence, riots broke out after an accident between two motorcyclists in Vadodara, in the western state of Gujarat, on Sunday night, police said.
Crowds of Hindus and Muslims pelted stones at one another. At least three people were injured and 10 vehicles were torched.
Opposition politicians have accused Modi’s party of stoking tensions between majority Hindus and Muslims in states that it rules.
(Reporting by NR Sethuraman, Sumit Khanna; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Stephen Coates)