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Muslim Indian activists hold placards during a protest against the killing of a Muslim for killing a cow and stroing beef in New Delhi, India
Muslim Indian activists hold placards during a protest against the killing of a Muslim for killing a cow and stroing beef in New Delhi, India | Mandatory Credit: Photo by Str / Epa / REX / Shutterstock (8452974c) India Protest Beef Murder - Oct 2015
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India Tackles Cow Vigilantism For the First Time in History

Picture of Mridu Rai
Updated: 22 March 2018
In a historic step, a fast track court in Ramgarh in the northern Indian state of Jharkhand has awarded life imprisonment to 11 men convicted of lynching a Muslim meat trader last year in June. In recent years, increasing cases of violence by cow vigilante groups have been reported forcing the nation to revisit its own demons.

Justice delivered

Alimuddin Ansari, 55, was allegedly beaten to death by more than 100 people when he was returning home after buying meat from a local market. The mob claimed that Ansari was carrying beef. Out of the 12 men, one is reportedly a juvenile and therefore, the court has adjourned its decision against the accused.

This is the first time anyone has ever been convicted for cow vigilantism in India. It comes as a much-hailed verdict as people across the country have started to fear that mob lynching is becoming the new normal.

Rising number of ‘beef lynching’ cases

Ansari’s lynching was not a one-off case and it follows a string of similar violent acts in different parts of India with Muslims and Dalits (lower caste group) being the main victims. Many have noticed that since the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, India has witnessed an unprecedented rise in the number of lynching cases.

A report released by IndiaSpend reveals that 84% of people killed in cow-related violence since 2010 are Muslims and 97% of such assaults occurred after the BJP came to power. While 139 people have been injured in these attacks, 25 people have lost their lives. Astonishingly, more than half of these attacks were based simply on rumours that the victim was carrying or consuming beef or involved in cow slaughter.

India Protest Beef Murder - Oct 2015
Muslim Indian activists hold placards during a protest against the killing of a Muslim for killing a cow and stroing beef in New Delhi, India | © Str / Epa / REX / Shutterstock

Reports of horrific incidents

In the last few years, shocking events have been reported from various parts of India whereby people calling themselves gau rakshaks, or cow protectors, have run amok and taken lives without any fear of legal consequences.

In September 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq from Uttar Pradesh was lynched after rumours spread that his family was consuming beef at home. It later turned out that the meat was mutton. In another incident, two Dalit brothers were stripped naked, tied to a tree and beaten for skinning a cow that had died of electrocution. Even women haven’t been spared as two females, suspected of carrying beef, were badly assaulted in Madhya Pradesh. A laboratory test confirmed that they were carrying buffalo meat instead.

Such self-appointed lawmakers have resorted to violence even for the slightest of reasons. In June last year, two young Muslim brothers were returning home on a train after shopping for new clothes for Eid. They lived about three hours away from Delhi. They got into an argument with some fellow passengers over seats. Soon, the boys were being taunted as ‘beef-eaters’ and 15-year-old Junaid Khan was stabbed several times and thrown out of the train. He later died in the hospital.

#NotInMyName

After repeated incidents and amid growing fearlessness among cow vigilantes, concerned citizens decided to step up and staged a nationwide protest with the theme #NotInMyName. Placards reading ‘No Place for Islamophobia’ and ‘Shed Hate not Blood’ were displayed as people stood in solidarity against the hideous crimes threatening to divide the country on religious grounds.

Among the 3,000 strong protestors at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, Junaid Khan’s family members were also present. Similar demonstrations were held in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Jaipur and in other major cities.

The recent judgement in Jharkhand sets a precedent to similar cases that are under trial in various other courts in the country and there’s hope that such incidents might decline in the near future.