Bengal villagers lynch two Muslim men who were on van carrying cows
Police yet to determine if attack was by angry villagers or if it had been instigated by cow protection vigilantes
Villagers beat to death two Muslim men who were on a vehicle transporting cattle in the early hours of Sunday morning, an assault the police said could have been instigated by so-called cow protection vigilantes.
The attack took place at a village in Jalpaiguri district, around 622 kilomteres from Kolkata, shortly after 2:30am on Sunday.
This the second case of cow-related lynching in West Bengal in the last two months after three Muslim youth were beaten to death in June.
Such attacks, ostensibly under the pretext of protecting cows, have increased in recent months with critics pointing the finger at Bharatiya Janata Party. The Prime Minister’s party has been accused of going soft on such attackers, since protection of the cow is seen as a largely Hindu agenda.
“The place of the attack was Dadon, a small village just 15 kilometres from Dhupguri town in Jalpaiguri. On being informed, the police rushed to the spot and found the bodies of the two victims who appear to be in their mid-thirties,” said a district police official. The area where the incident took place is close to the Indio- Bangladesh border at Falakata.
The victims were identified as Hafizul Sheikh, a resident of Dhubri, Assam, and Anwar Hussain, a resident of Patlahawa village in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal.
It was not clear if they were cattle smugglers or legitimate traders who purchased the cows from a nearby cattle market. “We are also investigating if this lynching was because of spontaneous rage of the villagers or conducted by any organised group under the garb of public rage,” the district police official said.
The additional director general (law & order), Anuj Sharma, did not comment on the issue but a senior police official said on condition of anonymity that cow vigilante groups have become increasingly active in certain pockets in north Bengal.
Police are yet to make any arrests.
According to the statement by the driver, who escaped the attack, the group lost its way while passing through the area and started driving in circles.
“Probably, that alerted local villagers, who first tried to stop the van. When the driver tried to dodge them and speed out, the villagers blocked the way and forced them to stop. Though the driver somehow managed to escape, the two victims could not and were ultimately lynched by the angry villagers”, a police officer said.