Indian police on Monday had not identified members of a mob that allegedly killed two Muslim teenagers who were believed to be transporting cows in West Bengal state a day earlier, an official said.
A mob allegedly killed Anwar Hussain and Hafizul Sheikh, both 19, after finding live cattle in the duo’s pick-up truck in Jalpaiguri district, Superintendent of Police Amitabha Maity told reporters.
Hussain and Sheikh were rushed to a nearby hospital but were declared dead on arrival, Maity said, adding that police had registered a case of murder against unidentified people and an investigation was ongoing to identify the suspects.
“Stern action will be taken against those involved in the case. If they thought that the cows were being transported illegally they should have informed the police instead of taking the law in their own hands,” Maity said.
“We are also investigating if the killings were a result of spontaneous rage of the villagers or if an organized group was behind it,” he said.
The incident is the latest in a spate of mob violence by self-styled cow vigilantes across India, where cows are considered holy. The slaughter and consumption of beef is banned in most states of the Hindu-majority country.
About 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people are Muslims, while Hindus make up 80 percent.
This was the second incident of cow-related mob violence in West Bengal in the last two months – three Muslim men were beaten to death in June over suspicion they were cattle thieves.
Almost 30 people – a majority of them Muslims – have been killed in nearly 65 incidents of cattle-related mob violence across India since 2010, with 97 percent of the attacks coming after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in May 2014, according to IndiaSpend, a New Delhi-based data journalism initiatives.
In his strongest statement against violence targeting minority Muslims across India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month deplored a string of violence.
“Killing people in the name of cow protection is not acceptable. No person in this nation has the right to take law into his or her hands,” Modi had said.
But rights activists said Modi’s right-wing government had failed to take concrete action against the culprits.
“Mob violence has spread across the country in the name of cow protection and minorities are being targeted with impunity. Not a single conviction has taken place in any of the cases,” Pradip Bhattacharya, a New Delhi-based government critic, told BenarNews.
“Time and against the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, BJP’s ideological mentor) has alleged that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was indulging in minority appeasement in her state. If that is true, why are Muslims in her state being targeted in the name of cow protection,” he added.