A politician from India’s ruling Congress party has been arrested over a threat to chop a fiery Hindu nationalist “into little pieces” for stirring religious violence.
A video handed to police on Saturday allegedly shows Imran Masood, fielded by Congress as a candidate in national elections in Uttar Pradesh, making the threat against Narendra Modi, the hardline leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), at a rally.
Officers say they have arrested Masood under hate speech laws, and he has been remanded in custody for 14 days by a judge.
He will be detained while they investigate whether there are sufficient grounds to file formal charges.
“Imran Masood was arrested this morning (Saturday),” an officer at Deoband police station, where Masood was taken into custody, told AFP news agency.
Masood made the alleged threat in relation to deadly riots that erupted in the state of Gujarat in 2002, when Modi had just become its chief minister.
“(Modi) thinks this is Gujarat where the Muslim population is four per cent. There are 42 per cent Muslims here …” he is seen to say.
If Modi were to make Masood’s constituency into Gujarat, “he will be chopped into tiny pieces,” Masood adds. Masood is Congress’s candidate in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur, which has a large Muslim population.
Modi, tipped to lead his party to victory in the national elections kicking off next month, has been accused of turning a blind eye to the deaths of a thousand people, mostly Muslims, during the violence.
The 63-year-old BJP leader has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing in connection with the riots.
Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the lower house of parliament, and is seen as a potential flashpoint after its own deadly religious riots last September left at least 50 dead.
Before his arrest Masood told local media he “did not threaten to kill Modi” and he only said the hardline Hindu leader “would have be taught a lesson”.
Masood also said his speech was from an old video.
Congress, meanwhile, said it “condemned his words” but would not cancel his nomination.