Three construction workers including a minor were arrested in Assam’s Jorhat district for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by displaying beef at a marketplace, police said on Thursday.
The Assam arrests are the latest in a series of cow-related incidents in BJP-ruled states and could fuel allegations of Hindu right-wing groups selectively targeting the minority community.
A local court sent two of the accused – identified as Shah Zaman Haque of Dhubri and Ashur Rahman of Kokrajhar – to 14 days’ judicial custody. The minor was sent to a juvenile home.
Police said the three were working at the site of an industrial training institute coming up on the outskirts of Jorhat, about 330 km east of capital Guwahati.
“They bought beef from somewhere on Tuesday and went to a vegetable market where they talked about their purchase. Some people took it seriously and lodged a complaint following which we picked them up,” said Prasanta Kumar Bhuyan, Jorhat superintendent of police.
Bhuyan said the accused also displayed the meat thereby hurting religious sentiments.
Cow slaughter is banned in Assam under the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950.
Officials of the district animal husbandry department said the meat seized by police has been sent to a forensic laboratory for examination.
An agency report hinted the accused could be illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
The BJP stormed to power in Assam for the first time last year, promising to stop illegal migration from the neighbouring country, a sensitive issue in the state which saw a six-year-long agitation over it.
However, the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to Hindu migrants have angered many organisations which are opposed to such religious profiling.
The organisations, led by the All Assam Students’ Union, is demanding identification and deportation of all migrants who entered Assam illegally after 1971, set as the cut off year in the 1985 Assam Accord.