A mob has clashed with police in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh over rumours that a cow was skinned and slaughtered. The incident took place in the same state where a man was lynched to death on 28 September for allegedly eating beef, a rumour that was later dismissed by forensic evidence that suggested the man had eaten goat instead.

Villagers in the Karhal area held protests when news spread that a cow had disappeared from a field near the village and was taken away for slaughter. An angry mob beat up two youths who were alleged to have stolen the cow, however, other reports indicate that the cow died of natural causes and was sold to the two men by the owner.

Police were said to have reached the scene only after the incident took place. When they arrived, they too were met with violence from the mob who allegedly threw stones at them and also lit a police keep on fire. The police were forced to club protesters with police batons to curb the violence.

A police officer later denied that a cow had been slaughtered. Daljit Singh Chaudhary said: "No injury or cut marks were found on the carcass. The two men who were ferrying the dead cow have been booked under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act nonetheless and further probes are on."

Police officer Chaudhary said that the two men in question had been arrested due to the fact that they intended to skin the cow before disposing of it. A further 18 people were arrested on charges of vandalising public property, throwing stones at police officers, and setting vehicles on fire. More arrests are expected as the perpetrators of the violence were caught on mobile phone cameras.

The cow's owner told the police that the cow had died of natural causes, the Times of India reported. An autopsy is due to take place to confirm the animal's cause of death.