India police arrest three people over cow vigilante murder
NEW DELHI // Police said on Thursday they had arrested three people for murder over the death of a Muslim man who was attacked while transporting cows in India.
Pehlu Khan, a 55-year-old farmer, died in hospital on Monday after around 200 vigilantes attacked trucks carrying cattle on a motorway in the Alwar area of Rajasthan state.
Slaughtering cows is illegal in many Indian states, and vigilante squads that roam the motorways checking livestock trucks for animals being transported across state borders have proliferated since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
Police are still trying to identify most of the 200 vigilantes who attacked Khan and others as they were transporting dozens of cows into a neighbouring state. Six other people were injured in the incident.
Alwar police chief Rahul Prakash said they arrested three people late on Wednesday after examining video footage shot by onlookers and broadcast by the media.
“We saw the videos and identified at least five people who were at the spot. We called those five people to the police station and found that three of them were directly involved in assault on the victims,” said Mr Prakash.
He said police had also arrested 11 survivors of the attack, charging them under various sections of Rajasthan’s cow protection law.
Rajasthan is among the states that ban cow slaughter, and authorities also require anyone transporting the animals across state borders to have a licence.
Rajasthan’s BJP home minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, said earlier that both sides were to blame for the incident on Saturday.
Khan’s death sparked outrage on Thursday in India’s upper house of parliament, where opposition lawmakers shouted slogans against prime minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government.
Rahul Gandhi, vice president of the opposition Congress party, said there had been a “shocking” breakdown of law and order.
“When government abdicates responsibility and allows lynch mobs to rule, tragedies of immense proportion follow,” he tweeted.
At least 10 Muslim men have been killed in similar incidents across the country by Hindu mobs on suspicion of eating beef or smuggling cows in the last two years.
* Agence France-Presse