A shot was fired from a crowd of Hindu nationalists and cow vigilantes at a police inspector in Uttar Pradesh who had tried to placate the mob angered by the discovery of 25 carcasses of cows abandoned in a forest, Asia News reports.
Anything that touches India’s sacred cows is a sensitive issue, especially since it involves different religious traditions and communal food practices. For this reason, a murder case could turn into a “religious war” between Hindus and Muslims. The latter traditionally trade in cattle. Shibu Thomas, founder of the Christian group Persecution Relief, told AsiaNews that “even the police are not exempt from hostile and brazen fanatics”.
The incident in question occurred yesterday in the district of Bulandshahr. Today some 70 people were detained in connection with the case, including members of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), and Yogesh Raj, district chief of the Bajrang Dal (youth wing of the ultranationalist Vishva Hindu Parishad). Both organisations are affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The victim, Subodh Kumar Singh, an inspector at the Siana Police Station. He was wounded by the crowd, after a violent protest broke out at the station following the discovery of the cow carcasses. A 20-year-old man was also killed in the violence.
When a crowd surrounded the SUV taking Inspector Kumar Singh to hospital, someone shot him. Afterwards the vehicle was set on fire. The policeman’s son Abhishek, said:
“My father wanted me to be a good citizen who doesn’t incite violence in society in the name of religion. Today my father lost his life for this Hindu-Muslim dispute; tomorrow, whose father will lose his life?”
The story took on sectarian connotations right away, after the Islamic community was blamed for the illegal slaughter of cows. In India, the animal is sacred in Hinduism and its killing is considered an outrage to the gods.
Uttar Pradesh is one of the Indian states that have banned the trade and eating of beef and shut down slaughterhouses. The ban has been challenged because it puts at risk the poor, and not to mention Muslims and Christians, who work with cow hides. The State’s Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu guru that has criticised minorities, is behind the ban.
“The law and order situation has worsened dramatically under the present Chief Minister’s rule,” Shibu Thomas explained. “A sense of impunity has emboldened the religious fanatics and there is fear and deep insecurity among minorities”.
Complicating matters is the fact that the victim, Inspector Kumar Singh, was involved in the Dadri lynching case. He “registered First information report,” said Asad Hayat, a Muslim lawyer and local activist, and “collected a lot of evidence and arrested all those accused whose names were mentioned in the First Information Report and eyewitness statements.”
This case, which shocked Indian public opinion, involves Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim man who was beaten to death in 2015 on the mere suspicion of eating beef. In reality it was later discovered that he had eaten buffalo meat.
Hayat represents the Akhlaq family and has been involved for years in disputes relating to religious matters. The lawyer notes that the inspector had gathered evidence and arrested some people, but then “he was transferred. Perhaps, I think, due to some political or other reason, he had not arrested [local BJP leader] Sanjay Rana, the person who had spread the rumour.”
In any case, his family told media that “he was under pressure and was getting threats from the accused he had arrested.” Now, “We lost a witness, and my clients are under a cloud of fear.”