A BJP worker was killed by members of a right-wing vigilante group in Udupi on Wednesday night, the first such attack on a member of the saffron party by so-called cow protectors.
Praveen Poojary, 28 received fatal injuries and 20-year-old Akshay Devadiga was hospitalised after more than 17 people surrounded their vehicle carrying cattle and attacked them sharp weapons near Hebri town, Udupi district superintendent of police KT Balakrishna told PTI.
“Hindu Jagarana Vedike members stopped a vehicle transporting three calves and assaulted two persons, accusing them of taking the calves to a slaughter house. In this incident Praveen Poojary has succumbed to the injuries at a hospital in Brahmavara,” Balakrishna said, according to PTI.
Protection of cow, regarded by Hindus as a holy animal, has become a political issue after vigilantes — several of them linked to Sangh Parivar organisations — have attacked and killed people on suspicion of killing the animal or consuming its meet.
On Thursday, a town in Western Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district was tense after nearly 150kg of suspected cow meat was seized and two Muslims, including a 60-year-old woman, were arrested.
The Union government has begun a crackdown on cow protection vigilante groups after the Prime Minister broke his silence on the string of attacks and said earlier this month that “those in the business of gau raksha (cow protection) anger me”.
His condemnation was seen prompted by an attack on Dalits in his home state Gujarat by so-called gau rakshaks (cow protectors) in July. The incident gave way to major mobilisation of the Dalit community that has held a series of powerful protests that also contributed to the resignation of chief minister Anandiben Patel.
Two days after the PM’s speech, the home ministry sent a missive to states to crack down on such groups.
Earlier, reports said the suspects in Udupi’s attack were from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, organisations linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The prime suspect was named as Hindu Jagarana Vedike’s Srikanth .
In Bengaluru, Karnataka home minister G Parameshwara said the attack appeared to be motivated by a cattle trade-related business dispute and expressed his “concern over repeated incidents relating to beef and cattle trade in Karnataka”.
(An earlier version of this story said cow protection vigilantes led by members of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal allegedly killed the BJP worker. PTI later revised the story to say Hindu Jagarana Vedike activists were involved in the attack.)