A Muslim man has died after he was brutally attacked by hundreds of Hindu “cow protection vigilantes” in western India.
Police confirmed yesterday that Pehlu Khan, 55, died in hospital two days after a group of men attacked his cattle truck on a road in Alwar in the desert state of Rajasthan.
Vigilante gangs of “cow protectors” have been blamed in killing at least 10 people in the past two years, as the welfare of the animal has become an increasingly controversial topic in Indian politics.
India’s majority Hindu population revere cows as godly creatures and the consumption of beef is only legal in eight of the country’s 29 states.
Alwar’s police chief, Rahul Prakash, told Agence France-Presse at least six others were injured in the attack, but they had now been discharged from hospital.
Police posted a 5,000-rupee (£62) reward to help identify the attackers and have listed more than 200 people as suspects in the murder case.
“We are yet to receive the postmortem report, but [the victim] had multiple rib fractures,” Prakash said.
Khan was driving in a convoy of six cattle transport trucks and returning to his home state of Haryana when the mob intercepted his vehicle.
Video of the vicious attack was broadcast on mainstream Indian television, showing the men being beaten with iron rods and wooden sticks.
The emergence of cow protection has been linked to an increasingly right-wing Hindu nationalist movement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into office in 2014 pledging to ban beef in India, and calls to declare the cow India’s national animal have grown since his election.
Rajasthan’s home minister said on Wednesday the vigilantes had “done a good job by protecting cows from smuggling”.
“But they have violated the law by beating people brutally,” Gulab Chand Kataria said.
Police are regularly accused of working alongside cow-protection vigilantes and one state, Haryana, announced plans last year to legalise some of the groups.
Cattle slaughter has become a prominent issue again in the past month after Modi’s party selected an extremist Hindu monk with a history of anti-Muslim remarks to run the country’s most populous state.
Yogi Adityanath commenced his administration of Uttar Pradesh state by cracking down on illegal slaughterhouses, sparking a four-day protest by butchers across the country.
Last week, Gujarat state raised the sentence for cow slaughter to life imprisonment. The chief minister of another state, Chhattisgarh, said at the weekend that anyone caught killing cows there would be hanged.