March 4, 2016 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 83

The Kamlesh Tiwari Blasphemy Case – Mass Protests, Rioting By Islamists In India's West Bengal State

March 4, 2016 | By Tufail Ahmad*
India | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 83

In Bijnor town, Indian cleric offers 5.1 million rupees for anyone who beheads Kamlesh Tiwari

On December 3, 2015 police in the northern Indian city of Lucknow arrested Kamlesh Tiwari, a man associated with the Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu interest organization. Ajay Kumar, a senior police officer of Lucknow, confirmed the arrest, saying that Kamlesh Tiwari "had circulated a paper allegedly containing derogatory comments against Muslims."[1] According to another media report, Tiwari had claimed to the press that "the Prophet Mohammed was the first homosexual."[2] Tiwari's statement was considered blasphemous by Muslims who led anti-blasphemy protests in different cities across India.

The blasphemy issue has emerged in India in a totally secular context. In India, gay sex is outlawed under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a British colonial era code under which India administers criminal justice. The Supreme Court of India has upheld the constitutionality of the Section 377, saying it is for the lawmakers to amend the code. On November 29, 2015, Arun Jaitley, India's Finance Minister - whose ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged from the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) - criticized the Supreme Court, calling its view on Section 377 "not in sync with the jurisprudential development on gay rights the world over."[3]

Jaitley's pro-gay rights statement was in turn criticized by Azam Khan, a loudmouth pro-Islamist Muslim minister in the government of Uttar Pradesh. According to a media report, Azam Khan criticized Jaitley's pro-gay rights statement, stating: "RSS leaders are homosexuals."[4] Responding to Azam Khan, on November 30 Kamlesh Tiwari allegedly issued a handwritten press statement in Hindi that read: "Hindu Mahasabha opposes Azam Khan's statement describing the RSS as a homosexual organization. Simultaneously, [it] gives a reply to the statement issued by Azam Khan... that Muhammad sahab was the world's first homosexual."[5]

The statement to the press allegedly by Kamlesh Tiwari (image courtesy:

Anti-Blasphemy Protests By Islamists In Towns Across India

India has no anti-blasphemy laws, but does have laws against hate speech and incitement of religious tensions. Since Tiwari's statement led to anti-blasphemy protests by Muslim groups in different parts of India, he was arrested on December 3. In India, due to the political correctness known locally as "secularism," Hindu extremists are more likely to be arrested than Muslim extremists for fomenting religious hatred. Despite Kamlesh Tiwari's arrest, the Muslim protests against blasphemy committed by him did not stop.

On December 10, anti-blasphemy protests took place in the town of Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh state. At the protest, an unidentified Islamic cleric declared that 5.1 million rupees would be given to anyone who beheaded Kamlesh Tiwari for calling the Prophet Muhammad the world's first homosexual. A MEMRI TV clip shows the cleric issuing his statement:

"To affront or comment on any religious thing is wrong. Today, all Muslims have protested against Kamlesh Tiwari. If the Utter Pradesh government or courts punish him - that's fine. Otherwise, the Muslims of Bijnor have announced that 5.1 million rupees will be given for his beheading. The Muslims of Bijnor will give 5.1 million rupees to anyone who will behead him."[6]

The cleric warned: "Kamlesh Tiwari, whether you are in jail or anywhere else, you cannot escape. This is warning... [This statement is on the behalf] of Maulana Anwarul Haq Sadiq, of all Muslims of Bijnor, and of all the responsible ulema [Islamic religious scholars] of Bijnor."[7]

Some of the biggest protests were held in Bhopal, Indore and other cities of Madhya Pradesh, a central Indian state. On December 7, 2016, tens of thousands of Muslims gathered at Eidgah and Regal Square in Indore and demanded action against Kamlesh Tiwari for derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad, though Tiwari had been arrested four days previously.[8] A large protest was held in the state capital of Bhopal on December 5. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a religious organization with countrywide presence, and All India Majlis Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM, an Islamist political party) were the major participants in the protests.

Addressing the crowds, Mufti Ziaullah Khan, the chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind for Madhya Pradesh state, said: "A person insulting the Prophet Muhammad is bound to get a death sentence, and we demand this for... [Kamlesh Tiwari] by the government of India."[9] Mufti Amir Jamal of AIMIM said: "We respect the law, hence demand from the government to respect our sentiments and punish... [Kamlesh Tiwari] with death so that an example is set for all those who commit a similar offense."[10] Mufti Abdul Razzaq, the Mufti-e-Azam of Madhya Pradesh, told the crowd: "We live in India with complete loyalty and expect India's laws to remain impartial and loyal towards us when it comes to our religious sentiments, especially towards our Prophet. But if the law does not provide justice to us, then it will be hard for us to remain loyal towards the law, and we will have to take it in our own hands."[11]

Protests were also held in Deoband, Meerut, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Lucknow and other cities of Uttar Pradesh and in some cities of Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi, and other states of India.[12]

Islamists Rampage At Kaliachak In Malda, West Bengal

Islamists destroyed a police station at Kaliachak (image courtesy: Zee News)

On January 3, 2016, a mob of Islamists demanding death penalty for Kamlesh Tiwari turned violent at Kaliachak in Malda district of West Bengal, a state which borders with Bangladesh. For several days, mainstream Indian media houses and editors ignored the issue, as generally is the case with the media and police turning a blind eye to the Islamists - for example, Kamlesh Tiwari who issued the derogatory statement against Muhammad was quickly arrested but the cleric in Bijnor town who openly offered a reward of 5.1 million rupees for beheading was not arrested. Even the local Bangla-language media and Urdu dailies did not report the incident for several days. One writer observed: "Just like previous occasions, this time too, all vernacular media had imposed self-censorship."[13]

At Kaliachak, which is not far from the India-Bangladesh border, a protest was held by the Anjuman Ahle Sunnatul Jamaat (AJS), an organization of Barelvi clerics.[14] Barelvis are a doctrinal sect of the Sunni Islam. Their views about the unconditional honor of Prophet Muhammad match those of the Islamic State (ISIS), which for this reason attacked the headquarters of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris and killed 11 cartoonists and editors, in January 2015. In West Bengal, Islamists are emboldened for two reasons: There is a continuing infiltration of Muslims from Bangladesh who arrive in the state and bribe local officials to obtain proper documents; and the state's "secular" government is led by Mamata Banerjee, who would not care to antagonize her Muslim voters in this election year. In India, the practice of "secularism" - basically a form of political correctness that has come to be known as "sickularism" - supports Islamists and jihadis. For example, senior editor Shekhar Gupta wrote in one of his columns: "The Left intellectual domination of modern Indian thought, and its embrace by the Gandhi dynasty, resulted in lazy, static politics where the word 'secular' became synonymous with Muslim."[15]

When the Border Security Force (BSF) and locals cops attempted to manage the crowds, the Islamists attacked the police station at Kaliachak, blocked the highway, set fire to buses and police vehicles, and damaged government buildings. A senior police officer who did not identify himself told The India Today magazine: "The entire act of violence was carried out to terrorize the local administration and to take revenge against the police and security forces."[16] The report stated that all political parties - the ruling Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress of Sonia Gandhi - have cultivated a pro-Islamist constituency in order to get Muslim votes: "A strong anti-Hindu sentiment in the locality, reportedly propagated by all three political parties-ruling Trinamool Congress, Congress and CPI(M)-turned into massive violence..."[17]

Photos Of Anti-Blasphemy Protests Across India

Muslims protest in New Delhi (image courtesy:

Young Muslims at an anti-blasphemy protest against Kamlesh Tiwari in Indore city (image courtesy: Hindustan Times)

A truck set afire by Islamists at Kaliachak in West Bengal (image courtesy: ABP News)

Azam Khan, the Muslim minister in Uttar Pradesh government who began the incitement (image courtesy:

At Mandya in Karnataka state, Muslims demand action against Kamlesh Tiwari (image courtesy: The Hindu)

Police vehicles set on fire by Islamists at Kaliachak (image courtesy: ABP News)

Anti-blasphemy protests in Bhopal on December 13 (image courtesy: The Indian Express)

In Muzaffarnagar town, Muslims lead anti-blasphemy march against Kamlesh Tiwari (image courtesy: Zee News)

In Bhopal, Muslims listen to Islamic clerics (image courtesy: YouTube video)

In Bangalore, an Islamic cleric delivers anti-blasphemy speech (image courtesy: Sahil Online)

* Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project


[1] (India), December 3, 2015.

[2] (India), December 12, 2015.

[3] (India), November 29, 2015.

[4] (India), December 12, 2015.

[5] Downloaded from Twitter.

[8] (India), December 9, 2015.

[9] (India), December 5, 2015.

[10] (India), December 5, 2015.

[11] (India), December 5, 2015.

[12] (India), December 5, 2015.

[13] (India), January 18, 2016.

[14] (India), January 7, 2016.

[15] The Business Standard (India), November 6, 2015.

[16] (India), January 6, 2016.

[17] (India), January 6, 2016.

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