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Cow vigilantism in India

It’s recently been reported that two Muslim men were lynched, on suspicion of stealing cows, in Assam State.

“They were chased and beaten with sticks by villagers who said the two boys were trying to steal cows from their grazing field,” said Debaraj Upadhyay, Nagaon’s chief police officer.

“By the time we took them to the hospital at night they had succumbed to their injuries,” he added.

This is not the first such murder:

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.

Although these murders are not state sanctioned, the legal penalties for harming cows are extremely severe. The state of Gujarat has recently increased the punishment to life imprisonment.

It’s hardly surprising that this combination of judicial harshness and extrajudicial violence is leading to a climate of fear.  Recently an Indian actor felt she needed to explain that she had not in fact eaten at a table where beef was served.