A Muslim man who was assaulted by vigilantes over suspicion of cow smuggling in Rajasthan died at a hospital in Alwar, police said on Tuesday.
The incident came amid several steps taken by BJP-ruled states to protect cows, considered sacred by many Hindus. BJP and other right-wing Hindu leaders have also been quoted making provocative statements over the issue.
Police said Pehlu Khan (35) died at a hospital on Monday night, two days after 15-odd people were assaulted by vigilantes on the Alwar highway.
Alwar collector Muktanand Agrawal said Khan was among the people transporting cows in six vehicles.
Some of those attacked are undergoing treatment for injuries while the remaining are in judicial custody, said Virendra Singh, a constable at the Bahror police station.
The transporters are said to be Muslims from Haryana’s Nuh district.
The Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act, 1995 prohibits the export of cows for slaughter and treats the transporter as an abettor. Transportation for agricultural or dairy farming is allowed with permission from the district administration.
The police denied knowledge whether the transporters had permit for transporting the cows.
Family-members of the deceased met the sub-divisional officer who assured them of fair investigation in the case.
“We have registered a case of murder against six persons and 200 unknown people,” said Ramesh Sinsinwar, the station house officer of Bahror. No one has been arrested so far.
Sources said the cow protection vigilantes intercepted several trucks and pick-up vans carrying cows on the highway in the Jaguvas Bahror area of Alwar on Saturday evening.
The vigilantes then assaulted the transporters, some of whom needed hospitalisation.
The incident came days after the Gujarat assembly passed a bill making cow slaughter punishable with life imprisonment. The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh led by Yogi Adityanath has also launched what it describes as a crackdown on cow smuggling and illegal slaughter houses.
Last week, Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh said that anyone found killing cows will be hanged, a comment which drew criticism from the political opposition.
Opposition parties often criticise the BJP government at the Centre and states of not doing anything to reign in self-styled vigilante groups targeting people they suspect of cow slaughter or smuggling.
Rajasthan too has seen such attacks earlier. In September last year, members of Hindu right-wing groups vandalised over 40 Muslim houses in Raghunathgarh village of Alwar.
The vandalism came after police raided the area and claimed to have recovered three dozen cow carcasses and rescued six cows. The police had also arrested 12 persons.