Members of India’s ruling party have publicly promoted Hindu supremacy, which has led to attacks against Muslims and other minorities, Human Rights Watch claims.
Meanwhile, the government failed to prevent or promptly investigate attacks against victims, the group said on Thursday in its report on human rights in 2017.
“The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence,” the group said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is India’s ruling right-wing party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi
“Indian authorities have proven themselves unwilling to protect minority religious communities and other vulnerable groups from frequent attack,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director, in a statement.
“There needs to be a serious effort to prevent future attacks and to prosecute all those responsible for the violence,” she said.
HRW said there were at least 38 attacks against Muslims and other minority communities over the trade or slaughter of cows for beef in 2017. At least 10 people were killed.
Instead of punishing attackers, police officials often filed complaints against the victims under laws banning cow slaughter, the rights group said.
India’s Hindu majority regard the cow as holy, and slaughtering the animal is banned in several states.
Since the BJP came to power in 2014, mob violence and lynchings against Muslims and Dalits have increased.
In May 2017, two Muslim men suspected of stealing cows died after being attacked by villagers in the northeastern state of Assam, according to local police.
In June, about 20 men beat four Muslims on a train in the outskirts of the capital, New Delhi, fatally stabbing a teenager and seriously injuring two others.
Mohammed Akhlaque was beaten to death in Uttar Pradesh in September 2015 over rumours that he had slaughtered a cow.
His brother Jan Mohammed is also accused in a cow slaughtering case registered by the state police.
He expressed little optimism over receiving a verdict in the near future, but said “the courts were their last bastion of hope”.
“Doesn’t look like anything will change in 2018,” Mohammed told Al Jazeera.
“My brother was murdered in September 2015, he added. “Charges in that case have not yet been framed.”
“At this speed, the verdict will be pronounced in 30 years?”
Critics accuse far-right Hindu groups, some linked to the BJP, of fomenting violence against Muslims and lower-caste Hindus who eat beef or work in the meat and leather industries.
PM Modi denies the accusation and has publicly criticised so-called cow vigilantes.
Shabnam Hashmi, an activist at Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, a New Delhi-based human rights group, said she agreed with HRW’s observations.
“The government has not just failed the minorities, it has failed the Indian constitution,” she told Al Jazeera.
“The government is tacitly conniving in the anti-minority acts that’s going on in the country today. It’s open connivance.
“I have no hopes from this government. One only hopes that the people of this country will rise and defeat them.”
Zeenat Saberin contributed to this report from New Delhi: @SaberinZe