More than 140 people were arrested Monday in Vadodara, in India’s western state of Gujarat, following clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the city. The state government reportedly called in riot police to curb the violence, which has continued since Thursday, and also asked religious leaders to speak to the groups involved.
The riots reportedly flared up after an image, perceived as being offensive to Islam, was shared on Facebook, Reuters reported, citing an official. The clashes began late Thursday, at the time of a major religious Hindu festival being celebrated across the country. Hindu groups had sought to bar Muslims and other religious minorities from taking part in the festivities after a Muslim cleric called it a "festival of demons," according to Reuters.
“The idea of banning Muslims from Hindu festivals has upset the minority but we are determined to keep the celebrations open to all," E. Radhakrishnan, the city's police commissioner said, according to Reuters.
Services such as bulk-messaging systems and mobile Internet access have been blocked until Tuesday as a precautionary method to reduce the spread of violence, according to reports.
"We arrested 140 people on Sunday evening after two men were stabbed," Radhakrishnan said, according to Reuters, adding: "The injured are under medical observation and those who have been arrested are being interrogated."
Vadodara is a major city in Gujarat, which saw race riots in 2002 that killed about 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. The incident prompted several Western nations to impose a travel ban against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was chief minister of Gujarat at the time.
Modi had contested the 2014 elections from Vadodara but later gave up his candidacy in the city in favor of contesting from the holy Hindu city of Varanasi in the country’s north. Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide victory in the national elections in May.
Modi is currently in the United States and is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama this week, after addressing the United Nations General Assembly, and a massive gathering of Indian Americans at Madison Square Garden in New York over the weekend.
"Not many people are out due to fear of recurrence of violence," a senior state government official, said about the situation in Vadodara, according to Zee Network, a local news network, adding: "We are keeping a close eye on the situation."