POLICE in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan are investigating the death of a Muslim man at the hands of a suspected “cow vigilante” group.
BBC reports suggest a mob of men attacked three vehicles that were transporting cows from Jaipur to Haryana.
Footage of the attack began surfacing online two days ago. In the video, which has since gone viral, a man is seen being pulled from a truck by an angry mob and beaten in the streets while surrounding men vandalise his vehicle.
Five men were admitted to hospital following the attack and one – an elderly man identified as 55-year-old Pehlu Khan, who is seen being beaten in the video – succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday night.
According to a report from India Times, the gau rakshak (cow protectors) beat the five men despite them producing documents to show they had bought the animals for their dairy farm.
“Police got information some people are smuggling cows from Jaipur and headed to Delhi,” a senior policeman told NDTV.
“Behrod police caught some trucks and some trucks escaped. These trucks were force-stopped by the public and the drivers were beaten.”
He said 10 people had been arrested in connection with the murder.
Cows are revered in the Hindu religion as the mother of civilisation and many worshippers equate its slaughter or eating beef as blasphemy. This rationale has seen a rise in cow vigilante groups that have been responsible for attacks on mostly Muslim people, who still see the animal as an affordable source of nutrition.
Apart from the attackers, police also arrested the drivers of the vehicles on suspicion of cow-trafficking, an offence in predominantly-Hindu Rajasthan.
State Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria has shockingly come out to defend the lynch mob and blame the victims.
“The problem is from both sides. People know cow-trafficking is illegal but they do it. Gau Bhakts (cow protectors) try to stop those who indulge in such crimes,” Gulab said.
“However, taking law in one’s hand is wrong. Police will act against both sides.”
Many states have actively started enforcing bans on cow slaughter after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed India’s federal government in 2014.
The new Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered a crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses, which had led to the burning down of several meat shops in the state.
In Gujarat – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state – the punishment for cow slaughter is a life term after recent changes to the Animal Preservation Act.