Indian authorities should promptly investigate and prosecute self-appointed “cow protectors” or vigilantes who have committed brutal attacks against Muslims and Dalits over rumors that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef, a leading human rights group said on Friday. “Instead of taking prompt legal action against the vigilantes, many linked to extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the police, too often, have filed complaints against the assault victims, their relatives, and associates under laws banning cow slaughter, Human Rights Watch said.
Hindus, who form 80 percent of India's 1.3 billion population, consider cows to be sacred and for many eating beef is taboo. In many Indian states, the slaughtering of cows and selling of beef is either restricted or banned. Since May 2015, a violent vigilante campaign against beef consumption has led to the killing of at least 10 Muslims, including a 12-year-old boy, in seven separate incidents of mob violence. The New York-based rights watchdog said that in July 2016, in Gujarat, vigilantes stripped four Dalit men, tied them to a car, and beat them with sticks and belts over suspicions of cow slaughter. In a number of cases, the attackers have also robbed their victims of cash and cellphones, and damaged their property. Modi has condemned the attacks and his party, which also runs various state governments, has promised swift action against the offenders, but the attacks continue.
“Self-appointed ‘cow protectors’ driven by irresponsible populism are killing people and terrorizing minority communities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch. . The government should condemn this violence and take prompt action against those responsible for these attacks or face allegations of complicity.” Ganguly said, “The mild admonitions from BJP leaders when Muslims and Dalits are lynched over cows sends a message that the BJP supports this violence” “Instead of a government that took office on the promise of universal development, it now appears to be one unwilling to protect those most vulnerable,” Ganguly added.