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India: Railway officer fatally shoots four in train attack that 'targeted' Muslims

Muslim and opposition politicians have condemned the killings and blamed the rhetoric of the ruling BJP, which pursues a Hindu nationalist agenda
In a video, the suspect is seen standing over the victims on the train before making a few remarks (Screenshot)

An Indian railway constable killed three Muslim passengers and a colleague on a train on Monday, in a crime that has been labelled by Muslim and opposition politicians as a "terror attack that specifically targeted Muslims."

Constable Chetan Singh shot dead Tikaram Meena, a sub-inspector with the Railway Protection Force (RPF), and passengers Abdul Qadirbhai Mohammed Hussain Bhanpurwala, Akhtar Abbas Ali and Sadar Mohammed Hussain, while onboard a train travelling from Jaipur in the western state of Rajasthan to Mumbai city.

In a video which has since gone viral, Singh can be seen standing next to the body of one of the victims with his rifle in his hand.

"If you wish to stay in India, I am telling you, it's only Modi and Yogi," he can be heard saying, referring to both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the firebrand Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath.

Videos posted by Indian news agencies ANI and PTI showed blood-stained berths and shattered windows in parts of the train were the shootings took place.

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According to the agencies, Singh attempted to flee the scene after pulling the onboard alarm chain but was arrested on the outskirts of Mumbai.

Indian authorities have not discussed the content in the videos, telling local media that Singh was "suffering from mental health issues."

"Constable Chetan Singh is a short-tempered person and suffering from mental health issues. He had just returned from leave," P C Sinha, the chief security commissioner of the Western Railway, told reporters.

However, Asaduddin Owaisi, the president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, a large Muslim-led political party dedicated to protecting the rights of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities, blamed the rhetoric of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), which pursues a Hindu nationalist agenda.

"This is a terror attack that specifically targeted Muslims," he tweeted.

"It is the product of continuous anti-Muslim hate speech [and the] unwillingness of Narendra Modi to put an end to it. Will the accused #RPFJawan become a future BJP candidate? Will his bail be supported by the [government]? Will he be garlanded when released? Happy to be proven wrong," he added.

Jairam Ramesh, a senior leader from the opposition Indian National Congress party, also condemned the killings, and said top leaders from the BJP were "complicit in damaging the social fabric of India."

"The genie of hate is now out of the bottle and it will take a lot of collective effort to put it back in," Ramesh said in a tweet.

Between 2009 and 2014, there have been 19 cases of high-ranking politicians making negative remarks about minorities. But since 2014, when Modi's BJP took office, through the beginning of 2022, these incidents have skyrocketed to 348, marking an increase of 1,130 percent.

Earlier this year, the US State Department's 2022 Religious Freedom Report detailed a range of concerns about religious freedoms in India, and spotlighted the country for explicitly targeting religious minorities.

Among the concerns is the continued prohibition against religious conversion in multiple Indian states, attacks against religious minorities and systemic discrimination directed against Muslims - including "cow vigilantism", which results in attacks for alleged cow slaughter or beef trade.

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