State governments must investigate and bring to trial members of ‘cow protection’ groups who intimidate, harass or attack people in the name of upholding the law, Amnesty International India said Friday.
On 10 June, members of a local ‘gau rakshak’ (cow protection) group near Faridabad, Haryana, forced two men, who they suspected were beef transporters, to eat a concoction containing cow dung and cow urine. A video of the incident was circulated on social media, which also appears to show that the men had been beaten. The state police have arrested the two men, but have not taken any action against the members of the cow protection group. The killing of cows is banned in Haryana and many other Indian states.
Haryana’s Education Minister appeared to defend the violence, saying, “Youths are coming forward for cow protection like this. The law has brought a big change in the mindset of people and has swelled the reverence for the sacred animal.” The head of the cow protection group told Amnesty International India, “We made them eat the concoction to purify them and then handed them over to the police. We are helping the state to punish these people.”
“Cow vigilante groups appear to be increasing their violent attacks against suspected cattle traders,” said Abhirr V P, Campaigner at Amnesty International India in a statement. “It is the duty of the state – and not vigilante groups – to enforce the law. The silence, and at times encouragement, of public officials only emboldens these groups.”
In September 2015, Mohammed Akhlaq, a 50-year-old Muslim man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh was lynched by a mob, allegedly after rumours that his family had eaten beef. In October 2015, a 20-year-old man in Himachal Pradesh was killed by villagers for allegedly transporting beef. In March 2016, the bodies of two cattle traders were found hanging from a tree in Jhabbar, Jharkhand.
“Many of those targeted by cow vigilante groups are Muslim men. State governments must condemn these incidents, and prosecute self-appointed vigilantes who take the law into their hands. Anti-cow killing laws must not be used to justify attacks on members of religious minority groups. These are criminal acts and they should be treated accordingly.” said Abhirr V P.