Police combed the areas around a tiny Himachal Pradesh village on Friday to capture a group of unidentified men that lynched an alleged cow smuggler, with the incident raising communal concerns amid a spate of violence in parts of the country over cattle slaughter.
An angry mob bludgeoned to death 22-year-old Noman after stopping a truck with more than a dozen cows and oxen on board while four of his associates were also beaten up before being taken into police custody, sources said.
“We are yet to make any arrests in connection with the lynching of the man,” said superintendent of police Soumya Sambasivan.
The incident came weeks after Mohammad Ikhlaq, a 55-year-old resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Bisada village, was killed by a mob that suspected he had butchered a cow and consumed beef, with incident drawing a wave of nationwide outrage.
The Prime Minister this month urged Hindus and Muslims to together fight poverty and not each other, while he also described as “unfortunate” the Bisada incident that raised fears of sectarian violence with rival parties panning Narendra Modi for failing to rein in the BJP’s fringe groups that have been stoking tensions.
Police have been trying to identify the accused from pictures posted on some social networking sites by a group of locals after the incident. Officials said the images were later taken off.
Authorities said Noman’s associates, Nishu (37), Salman (20), Gulzar (22) and Gulfaam (24) were booked under laws prohibiting cow slaughter and cruelty to animals and a court remanded them in police custody for three days.
Congress spokesperson Naresh Chauhan urged the state government to take strict action against the members of the mob and also called for stringent measures to stop illegal smuggling of bovines.
“Strict action should be taken against guilty people in the state in both the incidents as our Constitution does not allow anyone to take law in their hands,” he said.
Cattle slaughter and sale of beef are banned in Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh, while several states with BJP governments have in recent months enforced and enhanced long-dormant laws imposing such prohibitions as right-wing groups push for a nationwide ban.
“This kind of act will not be tolerated,” said Vishwa Hindu Parishad member Manoj Kumar, referring to the alleged cattle smuggling, while he said the government was threatening those dedicated to protecting the cow.