A 55-year-old Muslim man died after being brutally beaten up by a group of cow vigilantes for allegedly transporting cattle illegally in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Videos of the attack showed the mob assaulting Pehlu Khan, who died in a hospital where he was admitted. The assailants were believed to be members of right-wing groups Hindu Jagaran Manch and Bajrang Dal. Four people who were injured in the incident, which took place on Saturday, 1 April, are still in hospital.
Cows are considered holy by millions of Hindus in India and eating beef is legally prohibited in several states. Cow vigilantes have been blamed for increasing attacks on those in the cow slaughter trade. The attackers have been emboldened by the presence of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party governments in some north Indian states.
It is still unclear whether Khan and four others had the necessary permission to transport the cattle as there are conflicting reports. The five men were heading to Haryana after purchasing the cows from a fair in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, when they were stopped by the mob on a highway.
When asked about the attack, Rajasthan's Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria blamed both the cow vigilantes and the transporters. "The problem is from both the sides. People know cow-trafficking is illegal but they do it. However, taking the law in one's hand is wrong. Police will act against both sides," Kataria said.
The police are reported to have arrested about 10 suspects and are looking for more. "I told them I had all the documents but they pulled us out of the vehicle and beat us up. They took away Rs 35,000 from me. I later lost consciousness and woke up in a hospital at around 1 am on Sunday," Azmat, 22, one of the injured victims travelling with Khan, said.
In 2015, during a similar incident, a Muslim man was lynched by a right-wing group in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh sparking widespread outrage. He was killed because he reportedly stored and consumed beef.