In the name of protecting cows, members of extremist outfits affiliated to India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are attacking Muslims.
On June 29, a mob beat up and killed Asgar Ansari, a 45-year-old Muslim trader in the eastern state of Jharkhand, for allegedly carrying beef in his car. Three days earlier, a Muslim dairy owner, Usman Ansari, was beaten up and his house set on fire; a cow carcass was reportedly found near his house.
The two incidents are the latest in a string of attacks carried out by activists belonging to outfits like the Bharatiya Gau Raksha Dal (BGRD) and its regional units as well as organizations like the Bajrang Dal and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) that are part of the Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu right-wing organizations of which the BJP is a part.
The attacks, which are illegal and being described as cow vigilantism, have surged in recent years.
According to an analysis by IndiaSpend, a public interest journalism website, 63 incidents of “violence centered on bovine issues” were reported between 2010 and 2017; 97 percent of these occurred after the BJP came to power in May 2014. Twenty-five of these incidents were reported in 2016 alone, the most so far in a single year.
However, 2017 seems poised to break this record as around 20 cow vigilante attacks have been reported in the first six months this year, with the violence showing no signs of abating.