The brother of a Muslim villager stoned to death in Uttar Pradesh this week over accusations of cow slaughter blamed local politicians on Thursday for the incident amid mounting sectarian tensions in the state that goes to the polls in 2017.
In an attack that has shocked the nation, Bisada village resident Ikhlaq died after being bludgeoned by a mob that dragged the 55-year-old out of his home late on Monday night while accusing him of butchering a calf and consuming beef.
Railway employee Afzal Ahmad, 57, said he suspected some political leaders whipped up communal tensions in the area and provoked local residents to act as vigilantes while the Centre asked the state’s Samajwadi Party government for a detailed report on the incident.
“I suspect the hand of some local politician who instigated the young boys and filled their heads with venom,” he said. “Otherwise, how could they have killed someone who lived with them like a family member for years?”
Dozens of security personnel were deployed in the area with as communal tensions rose in western UP with the local BJP unit deciding to hold a mahapanchayat on the issue.
Wary Muslims from the village on the outskirts of Delhi said they planned to relocate as the state government ordered a crackdown on the culprits with several suspects in police custody.
“We celebrated all festivals including Eid, Diwali and Raksha Bandhan together for decades,” said Ahmad. “The reality that these young boys have killed my brother will take time to sink in. Ikhlaq was almost living like a Hindu among Rajput families until Monday night when he was killed for practicing his religion by a mob.”
Cow slaughter and beef trade have come into focus since the BJP took power at the Centre last year as right-wing groups have been pushing for a nationwide ban, a move that many minority groups have termed an attack on individual rights.
Lucknow’s chief veterinary officer UN Rao told HT a ban on the slaughter of cows and selling of beef has existed in the state since 1955, though a senior state government officer said there was no restriction on the consumption of beef or beef products.
The subject of cow slaughter has created a wedge between Hindus and Muslims in the state in the past few months with 17 cases of sectarian clashes over the issue reported this year.
Members of the two communities fought in Kulpahar area of Mahoba district in July allegedly over cow slaughter, while similar cases of communal violence have also been reported from Pilibhit, Bahraich, Maharajganj and Ghazipur districts.
(With inputs from HT Correspondent in Lucknow)