On Monday night in Bisara—a village just 25 miles southeast of New Delhi—a mob of roughly 60 hunted down a Muslim farmer, dragged him and his son into the street, and savagely beat them with bricks. The farmer, 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq, was bludgeoned to death, and his son left severely injured.
Akhlaq’s sin? He ate some cow meat, allegedly.
After a rumor spread that Akhlaq and his family had been slaughtering cows and eating beef, the angry mob sprang into action. The police subsequently arrested eight people on Tuesday as they searched for two others suspected in the killing. The eight suspects were charged with rioting and murder.
“They accused us of keeping cow meat, broke down our doors and started beating my father and brother,” Akhlaq’s daughter said. “My father was taken outside the house and beaten to death. My brother was dragged to the courtyard downstairs and they used bricks to hit him on the head and chest, leaving him unconscious. They also tried to molest me and hit my grandmother on her face. They threatened to kill me if I said a word to the police.”
Devout Hindus consider believe cows are sacred, and the killing of cows and sale of beef are restricted or illegal in certain Indian states.
Tensions had been rising in Bisara, where about 40% of residents are Muslim, and rumors of cow-slaughter across India have only deepened the rift and increased hostility between the country’s Hindu and Muslim populations.
Another other example of this type of violence occurred in November 2005, when a Hindu mob in northern India attacked a Muslim town suspected of killing a cow for a feast marking the end of Ramadan. Three people died, and at least 40 homes were torched. A subsequent police investigation found that no cows had been slaughtered in that village. Akhlaq’s family is telling a familiar story.
“My brother was singled out,” the victim’s brother told the Associated Press. “Why were we targeted? We don’t eat beef. They announced our family had slaughtered a cow in the village, and that provoked people to attack our home.”