India urged to stop violence against Muslims

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NEW YORK, April 15 (APP): A prominent international human
rights group Friday called on Indian authorities to
promptly investigate and prosecute self-appointed ‘cow
protectors’ who have committed brutal attacks against Muslims
and Dalits over rumours that they sold, bought, or killed cows for
beef.
Instead of taking prompt legal action against the
vigilantes, New York-based Human Right Watch pointed out that many
linked to extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the police, too often, have
filed complaints against the assault victims, their
relatives, and associates under laws banning cow slaughter.
“Self-appointed ‘cow protectors’ driven by
irresponsible populism are killing people and
terrorizing minority communities,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South
Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
“The government should condemn this violence and take
prompt action against those responsible for these attacks
or face allegations of complicity.”
Human Rights Watch said that since Prime Minister
Narendra Modi’s government came to power in 2015, at least 10
Muslims have been killed in mob attacks related to allegations
over cows. Modi has condemned the attacks.
Eighty percent of India’s 1.3 billion people are Hindu,
who consider cows to be sacred. The selling of beef is banned
in several Indian states.
In one recent case, on April 21, 2017, HRW said in the Jammu
region of Jammu and Kashmir state, a mob brutally attacked five members
of a nomad cattle-herding family, including a 9-year-old girl,
on suspicion that they were taking their cows for slaughter. A
video posted on social media showed a group of men chanting
slogans commonly used by BJP supporters, breaking down
the family’s shelter, beating an elderly man with rods and sticks
even as women begged for mercy, and finally setting the shelter
on fire. Several policemen can be seen in the video while the
mob carries out the attack, but they appeared to be outnumbered
and stay back when the mob pushes them back. Police have arrested
11 people for the assault.
On April 22, it said purported animal rights activists in
New Delhi allegedly belonging to People for Animals, which is led by
a BJP official, beat up three men in a truck for
transporting buffaloes. Initially, the police failed to arrest
anyone for the assault or investigate the role of People for
Animals, which denied involvement in the attack. Instead,
the police arrested the three victims under a law preventing
cruelty to animals after the injured victims were taken to a
hospital. The men were released on bail a day later. Two days
after the incident, the police arrested a Delhi resident who claimed to
be a member of People for Animals. The police were informed of
the incident by another member of People for Animals who was
allegedly part of a ‘raid team’ that regularly stops vehicles
to see whether they contain cattle. People for Animals, which started
as an animal rights group, said that since 2014 it has shut down some
of its city units, including in Delhi, due to allegations of
vigilantism and extortion against its members.
Among the largest cow protection networks is the Bharatiya
Gau Raksha Dal (‘India Cow Protection Group’), an
umbrella organization registered in 2012, Human rights Watch
said. Its leader, Pawan Pandit, has said that the network is
affiliated with about 50 groups across the country and that
their 10,000 volunteers have a presence in nearly every state.
“Now the entire India is a cow protection group because people
are angered by such cruelty to animals,” Pandit said, adding that
even the BJP government was not strong enough on cow protection.
He denied allegations of violence by his members, saying
those were spontaneous acts by local residents angered by
the ill-treatment and slaughter of cows.
“The mild admonitions from BJP leaders when Muslims and
Dalits are lynched over cows sends a message that the BJP
supports this violence,” HRW’s Ms. Ganguly said. “Instead
of a government that took office on the promise of universal
development, it now appears to be one unwilling to protect those most vulnerable.”