The lynching of a 50-year-old man by a mob, which accused his family of consuming beef in the northern Indian village of Dadri, sparked outrage with opposition parties alleging that such incidents are a result of the “climate of hatred” propagated by BJP to polarise society.
Around 200 people attacked the residence of Iqlakh late Monday night after rumors spread that a cow has been slaughtered and beef was stored in his home, police said.
Slaughter of cows is a sensitive issue in India as the animal is considered sacred by Hindus.
The mob allegedly beat Iqlakh to death while his 22-year-old son Danish was critically injured in the attack and is undergoing treatment in a hospital.
Iqlakh’s family filed a police complaint against 10 attackers of whom six were later arrested.
A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 100,000 (US$1,526) for the family of the victim.
As tension prevailed in the area, PAC and additional police forces from Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr and Hapur have been deployed in Bisrakh area to prevent any communal flare-up, Senior Superintendent of Police of Gautam Budh Nagar, Kiran S, said.
Tension began after an animal carcass was found dumped in the middle of Bisrakh area of Dadri village.
Akhlaq’s daughter Mehraaj said after he went to sleep, the family heard an announcement from a nearby temple asking devotes to assemble at the shrine. A calf has been slaughtered despite a government ban and the culprit was Akhlaq, the announcement said.
Around 10.30 pm, people armed with sticks barged into their home, thrashed Danish who was studying, dragged Akhlaq out of his bed to the main road and started beating him up mercilessly.
According to the police complaint, some of them misbehaved with the women in the family and even took away their jewelry. Others opened the fridge only to find goat meat — cooked and uncooked — stored there.
When questioned by police, the temple priest said two villagers told him they had seen Iqlakh dumping the animal’s carcass on the road and that and he should summon devotees to the temple.
The attack on Iqlakh drew sharp rebuke from political parties with Congress alleging that such communal incidents are bound to escalate in the run-up to elections in adjoining Bihar state.
“Such politics needs to be condemned. There is a growing climate of hatred… politics of poison and hatred is bound to grow in the run-up to the Bihar elections. Silence from top [leaders] … is shocking,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
“In the last 15 months, such incidents have been rising,” he said.
The ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh state too attacked the BJP saying it was using issues like beef ban to spread hatred.
Terming the incident “painful”, Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, who is BJP MP from Noida, said it happened due to a “misunderstanding.” He dismissed allegations that it was an attempt to polarise the village ahead of panchayat polls there.
As news spread, villagers blocked a highway in Bisrakh area demanding death penalty for those involved in the cow slaughter. When police tried to control the mob, a clash ensued in which one protester, Rahul Yadav, was shot.
District Magistrate of Gautam Budh Nagar N.P. Singh said, “We have formed peace committees to restore communal harmony in the area.”
BJP MP Sharma said he has also organised a meeting between the two groups in the village in view of the tension prevailing there.
“It’s a painful incident. Both groups belong to the same village and had been living here for years. Nobody should take law into his hands,” Sharma said.
Asked about allegations that the incident was an attempt to polarise voters ahead of panchayat elections in that area, he said, “This incident was like action and reaction and not because of any organised plan”.
BJP district president Thakur Harish Singh said police did not quickly respond.
“The locals gave samples of meat to the police but they did not take it seriously. Then some people got agitated. We urge people to restore peace,” he said.
Samajwadi Party said quick steps by the UP government helped in bringing the situation under control.
“Let me assure that the state government would not tolerate any divisive force … to trigger such incidents that disturb communal harmony,” SP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said.
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