Asia

Cow-protection vigilantes held in Jammu and Kashmir

Members of Muslim family targeted by vigilantes among those held by police amid growing concern over issue.

At least 10 Muslim men have been killed in the past two years by vigilantes [R Kumar Singh/AP]

Police in northern India have arrested 11 so-called cow-protection vigilantes who attacked a Muslim family over suspicions that they were transporting cattle for slaughter.

The five-member family was moving with their livestock in Jammu and Kashmir state's Reasi district when a mob assaulted them on Friday. Among the injured were a 75-year-old man and a nine-year-old girl.

The accused were arrested on Sunday night and the cattle they had stolen recovered, Tahir Sajad Bhat, Reasi's police chief, was reported by DPA news agency as saying on Monday.

A series of incidents involving cow-protection activists attacking people transporting cattle in various parts of the country have shaken India, whose Hindu majority regards cows as sacred.

Police said they were yet to ascertain whether the attackers belonged to Hindu activist groups.

"The accused have been charged with attempt to murder. More arrests are likely soon," Bhat said.

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The police also charged some members of the assaulted family with transporting cattle without permission.

Last month, Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, appointed Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu nationalist politician from his governing BJP, to head the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is also home to much of the country's Muslim-dominated meat industry.

Shortly after being sworn in, Adityanath launched a crackdown on abattoirs, grinding much of the industry to a halt.

Last month, the state of Gujarat also increased the punishment for cow slaughter from seven years to life imprisonment.

Under the stiffened penalties, anyone caught transporting cows for slaughter could also face up to 10 years in jail.

The amendment still needs the approval of Gujarat's governor before becoming law.

A series of attacks

In the latest incident of vigilantism, according to a report in the Indian Express newspaper, three men were assaulted by vigilantes who intercepted their vehicle transporting buffaloes on a main Delhi road on Saturday night.

The men said they had all relevant documents, but were still beaten in the presence of police. The men said their attackers had not been arrested. The Delhi police were not immediately available for comment.

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The newspaper cited the police as saying that two reports have been filed; one against the men transporting the animals; the other against unknown persons for assaulting them.

Earlier this month, a 55-year-old Muslim man was killed in a similar attack in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

Pehlu Khan's truck carrying cattle was attacked by hundreds of vigilantes while travelling in Alwar in the western state of Rajasthan.

At least six more people were wounded in the attack.

The men had bought the dairy cows at a cattle fair and were taking them home to neighbouring Haryana state when the mob stopped the trucks.

Police also said that they were preparing a case against the survivors of the attack, whom they suspect of trying to smuggle the cattle across state borders.

"They were carrying eight bovines in the mini truck without permission. We will file a case against the survivors after concluding our investigations," Ranesh Chand Sinsinwar, the police officer heading the investigation, told AFP news agency.

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Gulab Chand Kataria, Rajasthan's home minister, blamed both sides for the incident.

"It is illegal to transport cows, but people ignore it and cow defenders are trying to stop such people from trafficking them," he said.

At least 10 Muslim men have been killed in similar incidents across the country by Hindu cow vigilantes on suspicion of eating beef or smuggling cows in the past two years.

In 2015, a Muslim man was lynched by his neighbours near New Delhi after rumours he had slaughtered a cow. Police later said the meat was Indian mutton.

Last month a hotel manager was beaten by a mob and his restaurant sealed in Jaipur after Hindu vigilantes accused him of serving beef.

Source: News agencies