A village mob in northern India beat one Muslim to death with sticks and injured four others who were accused of smuggling cows to be slaughtered for beef, police said Friday. The survivors were arrested for alleged animal cruelty.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, took office last year, hard-line Hindus have been trying to force a national ban on beef sales – a key industry for many within India’s poor, minority Muslim community.
Hindus worship cows as a sacred animal and 24 of India’s 29 states ban slaughtering them. The country of 1.3 billion is about 81 percent Hindu and 13 percent Muslim. Nevertheless, India is the world’s largest exporter of beef.
Officer Somya Sambhasivam said police were searching for villagers who fled after the attack on Wednesday in Sarahan, a village in Himachal Pradesh state. The area is 160 miles north of New Delhi.
The mob chased a truck loaded with five cows and 10 bulls and attacked the five occupants of the vehicle, Sambhasivam said.
The five hid in the forest until police found them and took them to the hospital, where one of them died, she said.
The Press Trust of India said those attacked were all Muslims from neighboring Uttar Pradesh state.
Police arrested the four survivors for alleged cruelty toward the animals, causing injuries to them during transportation in the truck, she said.
Police were investigating whether the assailants belonged to a Hindu hard-line group. Such groups have recently stepped up attacks on Indians who slaughter, sell or consume beef.
On Sept. 30, a mob of around 60 people beat a Muslim farmer to death and injured his son after hearing rumors the family had eaten beef for dinner. The attack occurred in Uttar Pradesh Bisara, a village about 25 miles southeast of the Indian capital, New Delhi. The family said the meat was mutton, not beef — a claim that was later confirmed by laboratory testing.
In a separate attack, on Oct. 6, a mob in a village about 200 miles from Mumbai set fire to a van they claimed was transporting beef. Two days later, Hindu nationalist members of parliament assaulted another lawmaker who allegedly hosted a party where beef was served.
The opposition Indian National Congress vowed on Oct. 6 to join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s call for a full nationwide ban on the slaughter and consumption of beef.
Al Jazeera and wire services