Updated at 9:55 a.m. ET on 2017-06-27
Thousands of Muslims across India on Monday sported black arm bands while offering Eid prayers to protest what they termed as a sharp rise in atrocities against their community members since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power three years ago.
In two separate incidents on Thursday, four Muslims were allegedly killed in mob violence in the eastern state of West Bengal and northern state of Haryana by self-styled cow vigilantes.
Cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India, and consumption of beef is banned in most states.
Asked why he had chosen to wear an arm band on Eid al-Fitr, New Delhi resident Daulat Khan told BenarNews: “We have been at the receiving end for quite some time. We want the government to understand our plight that we are unhappy on the day of Eid because of the routine violence against our community.”
‘No communal dispute’
Three men – Nasirul Haque, 30, Mohammad Samiruddin, 32, and Mohammad Nasir, 33 – were beaten to death by a mob that allegedly caught the trio stealing cows in West Bengal’s North Dinajpur district, about 450 km (279 miles) from Kolkata, police said.
Police said they had arrested three men who were allegedly part of the mob. The state government ordered a probe into the violence, the latest in a string of similar attacks on the minority community since the Hindu nationalist BJP swept to power in May 2014.
“Three suspects – Asit Basu, Ahim Basu and Krishna Poddar – have been arrested and we are hunting for others who took part in the violence,” investigating police officer Pankaj Jha told BenarNews.
“The three men who were killed were in fact cow thieves with a past criminal record,” Superintendent of Police Amit Kumar Rathod told BenarNews.
The state government however denied the violence was communal in nature.
“There was no communal dispute. On Thursday night some alleged thieves were caught [and] that anger turned violent,” West Bengal’s Member of Legislative Assembly Hamidur Rahman told BenarNews.
‘Echoing in my ears’
In another incident on Thursday, a mob armed with knives attacked four Muslim brothers on a train after allegedly calling them “anti-national” and “beef-eaters.”
The over two-hour attack claimed the life of one of the brothers – 16-year-old Hafiz Junaid – as the four were traveling from New Delhi to Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura city after shopping for Eid, police said.
“It is impossible to get rid of the image of Junaid lying in my lap, soaked in blood. His screams, which became louder with every stab, are still echoing in my ears,” Junaid’s older brother Hashim, 20, who was also stabbed, told Hindustan Times.
Police arrested one person in connection with the train incident, an official said, without identifying the suspect.
“During interrogation, the accused told us that he was egged by his friends to attack the Muslim brothers because they ate beef,” the official told BenarNews while requesting anonymity.
More than two dozen mob attacks on suspected cow thieves and beef-eaters have occurred in the last three years that the BJP has been in power. The assaults left at least 10 people dead, six of them Muslims.
A social media campaign to condemn these atrocities picked up over the weekend with hashtags such as #StopKillingMuslims and #EidWithBlackArmBand, cropping up on Twitter and Facebook.
Activists blamed the BJP government for failing to control the frequent incidents of mob violence by self-styled cow protectors.
“The main goal of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, BJP’s ideological mentor, is to turn India into a completely Hindu country,” political analyst Pradeep Bhattacharya told BenarNews, referring to a rightwing Hindu outfit affiliated with the ruling party.
“Atrocities against minorities in the name of cow protection are part of this plan.”
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) official offered a similar view.
“The mild admonitions from BJP leaders when Muslims are lynched over cows send a message that the BJP supports this violence,” HRW official Meenakshi Ganguly wrote in a column.
“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.
Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad told NDTV that incidents of cow vigilantism are “extremely painful and shameful and the government won’t tolerate such attacks.”
BenarNews’ effort to reach senior BJP officials for comment was unsuccessful.
Paritosh Kanti Paul in Kolkata contributed to this report.