NEW DELHI (AP) — Seventeen members of a hard-line Hindu group have been arrested after a Muslim man was beaten to death in western India, a top police official said Friday.
The men were being questioned in the killing of Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in Pune late Monday, said Deputy Police Commissioner Manoj Patil.
Shaikh and a friend were returning home from a mosque when a group of men surrounded the two men and beat Shaikh with iron rods and hockey sticks.
Hindu radical groups alleging derogatory pictures had been posted on Facebook had held minor protests last weekend in Pune and neighboring towns in Maharashtra state, said Santosh Mohite, a Pune police officer.
The protesters pelted stones at mosques and Muslims schools in the outskirts of Pune and the towns of Solapur, Satara and Raigarh. Police were investigating those attacks as well and more arrests were likely, Mohite said.
One of the groups, Hindu Rashtra Sena, or Hindu National Army, had been protesting the posting of pictures of Shivaji, a 17th century warrior king, and Bal Thackeray, a revered Hindu nationalist leader.
Shaikh had nothing to do with the posts but was caught by armed Hindu Rashtra Sena members and fatally beaten, said Mohite.
Shaikh, 28, worked as a manager in a textile firm in Pune.
"We are treating this as a hate crime against a religious minority," Mohite said.
Security was tightened with more policemen posted on the streets near major mosques during Friday prayers, police said.
Police were also organizing meetings between prominent Hindu and Muslim leaders to restore peace and calm, Mohite said.
Muslims fear that hard-line Hindu groups will be emboldened by the overwhelming victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in recent general elections. The BJP-led government took office last month.