Indian government officials have spoken out over last week’s mob killing of a Muslim man who was rumoured to be storing and eating beef.
The mob attack was provoked by an announcement at a nearby Hindu temple that farm worker, Mohammad Akhlaq, 50, had slaughtered a calf and consumed it with his family. Enraged by the rumours, 100 men dragged Akhlaq from his home in the Dadri village near Delhi onto the street where he was beaten to death with bricks.
The invaders also targeted Akhlaq’s 22-year-old son, leaving him close to death alongside his father’s body.
Eight men have since been arrested for the murder.
“Lynching a person merely on suspicion is absolutely wrong,” Tarun Vijay, a member of India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said.
Vijay called the supposed crime a “provocation” of Hindu beliefs; his comments have been taken as implying that Akhlaq’s slaughter may have been justified if irrefutable proof of him butchering, storing and eating a cow had been discovered.
Killing of the ‘holy cow’ is banned in many parts of India. Although most of the country’s 1.4 billion inhabitants are Hindu, Muslims and other minorities eat beef as a source of protein. Yet, right-wing party members have recently compared the eating of a cow to the rape of a Hindu girl.
“India’s triumph has been forging a nation in which Hindus and Muslims can live happily together. The fear is that beef ban is part of a process that is gradually undermining the compromises that made that possible,” BBC’s Justin Rowlett remarked in April.
Since India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, came to power in May 2014, many states effectively tightened their laws overnight causing incidences similar to Akhlaq’s death to increase.
Modi’s administration has appealed for religious unity after succumbing to growing pressure to defuse rising intolerance towards follows of non-Hindu religious practices.
“The country has to stand united. Harmony, brotherhood and peace will lead us to development,” Modi said at an election rally.
The comments came within hours after video footage was televised showing BJP legislators punching and attacking an opposition Muslim member in a state parliament for allegedly holding a “beef party”. – Matina Moutzouris
Top photo of a protest against the lynching from MediaOneTV.