urfew was imposed on a southern Indian town on Tuesday after two people were killed when Muslims rioted to protest against a newspaper article they said offended Islam, police said.
One of those killed was shot by police, who opened fire as they tried to stop hundreds of Muslims attacking shops and vehicles in Shimoga town, its police chief S Murugan said.
The town is about 250km from Bangalore, the nerve centre of India’s $60b outsourcing industry that runs services from software coding to managing computer networks and call centres.
Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka state, ruled by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, and if the violence spreads in reprisal attacks it could disrupt business.
Hundreds of Muslims took to the streets on Monday after a local newspaper published what it said was an article by controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin challenging the traditional Muslim veil as curbing women’s freedom.
The infuriated Muslims vandalised shops and damaged vehicles. Protests also spread to Hassan town. Police said Hindus had retaliated at some places. Taslima Nasrin denied writing the article and said she suspected a deliberate attempt to malign her. “The incident that occurred in Karnataka on Monday shocked me,” she told Reuters in an email.
“I learned that it was provoked by an article written by me that appeared in a Karnataka Newspaper. But I have never written any article for any Karnataka newspaper in my life. The appearance of the article is atrocious.”
She added: “In any of my writings I have never mentioned that Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was against burkha (Muslim veil).”
Nasrin’s work has sparked trouble in India in the past. She fled Bangladesh for the first time in 1994 when a court said she had “deliberately and maliciously” hurt Muslims’ religious feelings with her Bengali-language novel “Lajja”, or “Shame”, which is about riots between Muslims and Hindus.
At the time, thousands of Muslims protested against her, demanding that she be killed for blasphemy, and some have continued to threaten her life ever since.