Fresh details have emerged over the murder of a 58-year-old Muslim, who was lynched for storing beef at his home in Dadri in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Though the preliminary report in September 2015, shortly after the incident, suggested the meat was not beef, the latest forensic report has found the samples did belong to a cow.
In September 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was brutally beaten to death and his family members were left injured for reportedly consuming beef. The incident sent shockwaves across the country. Strong pleas were made to both the federal administration and the ruling state government in Uttar Pradesh to take action against the 100-strong mob which killed the victim.
"Initially, we did say mutton but subsequently, we were told by the lab that it was beef," the state's police chief Javed Ahmed told the Indian broadcaster NDTV.
The samples were collected from Mukhtar's house shortly after he was killed. Authorities say they wanted to establish the nature of the meat as part of the investigation. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, cow slaughter is illegal but not consuming beef.
Lawyers arguing for the attackers have said the results prove this was not an orchestrated attack against the victim but an "emotional" outburst of the mob. Defence lawyer Ram Saran Nagar was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper: "Cow slaughter is an extremely emotional issue for the Hindus. Our argument is that when the mob saw beef, it became extremely agitated. Our clients are innocent individuals who have been framed by the police."
Subsequent to the lynching, 18 people were taken into police custody and local reports suggest some of them are aligned to right-wing political groups.
However, Mukhtar's family has rejected the latest finding saying the results are "politically motivated" to bring down the prison term of the perpetrators.
Rights groups and activists say regardless of the variety of the meat, the attackers should be severely punished.
The new details have surfaced when the politically charged Uttar Pradesh, the most populous Indian state, will have state elections in another seven months.
Hindus, who make up nearly 80% of India's population, consider cows as sacred. Cow-slaughter remains a touchy subject in India and beef was banned in multiple states over the past several months. Critics of the government often point out that extreme right-wing Hindu groups have been emboldened ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, was elected as the country's leader in 2014.