NEW DELHI (AFP): Indian police said Thursday they were still hunting for two men suspected of murdering a Muslim folk singer because his performance angered a Hindu priest, sparking communal tensions.
Adam Khan was murdered in late September in western Rajasthan state after the priest complained the singer’s rendition of a particular tune failed to invoke the spirit of a temple goddess.
A group of men set upon the 45-year-old singer in Jaisalmer, breaking his instruments before beating him to death, police said.
Khan’s relatives reported the murder to police despite warnings from the powerful Hindu community.
Nearly two dozen Muslim families have since fled the area, fearing retribution, in what police say is a dispute within India´s complex caste system.
One of the accused, Ramesh Suthar, was arrested in early October but two other suspected attackers remain on the run, police said.
“Several teams of police are working to arrest the accused. We will nab them soon,” Gaurav Yadav, Jaisalmer police chief, told AFP.
Khan belonged to Manganyar caste, a largely Muslim community of folk singers from Rajasthan and neighbouring Pakistan.
The Manganyar traditionally sing at Hindu temples and are popular with tourists in the far western Thar desert region.
Yadav said the death has sown divisions between Hindus and Muslims, adding police were trying to persuade Muslim families that fled to return, assuring their protection, he added.
But the incident is the latest in a string of vigilante attacks by Hindu hardliners on the Muslim minority in western Rajasthan state ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
In April, a Hindu mob killed a Muslim cattle trader in Alwar district after he was accused of smuggling cows for slaughter.
Cows are considered sacred by many Hindus and beef consumption is a flashpoint issue in Hindu-majority India.
Vigilantes raided a hotel in Rajasthan´s capital Jaipur in May after the owners were accused of serving beef.
Critics of Modi´s ruling BJP say Hindu radicals have been emboldened since the party swept to power in 2014, with dozens of Muslims lynched by mobs across India.