India must immediately end “vicious” repression against Muslims who took to the streets to protest statements by a ruling party official against the Prophet Muhammad, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Two protesters were killed and hundreds more were arrested last week during nationwide protests over comments that drew India into a diplomatic sensation and sparked widespread outrage in the Islamic world.
Since then, footage of bulldozers destroying the homes of those arrested or recognized as protesters has spread on social media.
Authorities have “selectively and brutally cracked down on Muslims who dare to speak out … against the discrimination they face,” Amnesty’s Aakar Patel said in a statement.
“Praying the protesters through excessive use of force, arbitrary detention and punitive demolition of houses … is a complete violation of India’s obligations under international human rights law.”
More than 300 people have been arrested in Uttar Pradesh in the north for participating in rallies last week.
The state’s chief minister, firefighter monk Yogi Adityanath, is one of India’s most prominent Hindu nationalist politicians, known for his sectarian rhetoric against India’s 200 million Muslim minority.
Mr Auditianat has repeatedly called on the authorities to demolish the homes of people accused of crimes, which critics say violates constitutional prohibitions and prohibitions on human rights law on collective punishment.
Amnesty demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of the detained protesters, and Mr Patel said the arrests and demolitions were “part of a disturbing escalation of state measures aimed at Muslims”.
Since coming to power at the national level in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been accused of advocating discriminatory policies against Muslims.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a controversial law that gave faster citizenship to refugees in India, but not if they are Muslims, while BJP governments have passed laws that make interfaith marriages more difficult.
Significant demonstrations took place in Indian cities on Friday, with some crowds burning images of Nupur Sharma, the BJP’s spokesman, whose comments caused a stir during the televised debates.
Ms. Sharma was disqualified from the party, which issued a statement saying she respects all religions, while governments of nearly 20 Muslim-majority countries have called on their Indian envoys to record their rejection.
Mass protests also took place in neighboring countries on Friday: police estimated an estimated 100,000 people mobilized across Bangladesh after the noon prayer.
Another 5,000 people took to the streets in the Pakistani city of Lahore, demanding tougher measures from the government against India over comments.