Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has broken a week-long silence after the mob killing of a Muslim man rumoured to have slaughtered a cow. Speaking at an election rally in the northern state of Bihar, he appealed to Hindus and Muslims alike to maintain peace and work together to take India forward.
Modi said: "Hindus should decide whether to fight Muslims or poverty. Muslims have to decide whether to fight Hindus or poverty. Both need to fight poverty together. The country has to stay united. Only peace and goodwill can take this country forward."
Politicians from the prime minister's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been making statements on the beef mob killing that seem to indicate their support for the Hindu mob. However, Modi urged the public to ignore these statements. He said: "Some politicians are making irresponsible statements for political interest. Such statements should end. Do not pay attention to such statements, even if Modi himself makes any such statement."
The prime minister's comments came on the same day a scuffle between legislators broke out in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, on 8 October. Lawmakers from Modi's political party attacked a Muslim legislator for holding a party the day before where he served beef.
Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid said the party was not meant to offend anyone but it was a sign of protest against legislation that attempted to "stop us from having what we want to have" and "prevent the people from eating what they want". Tensions remain high in Jammu and Kashmir, where politicians enforced the ban on beef in the Muslim-majority state. Protestors are now asking the Supreme Court to revoke it.
Indian states are allowed to impose their own laws on the slaughter of cattle. While cows are considered holy by many Hindus, who form a majority of India's population, beef is eaten by many of the country's Muslim and Christian populations, as well as a number of Hindus.