Pehlu Khan, a Muslim dairy farmer, died after being attacked by “cow vigilantes” in Alwar, Rajasthan State. Mr Khan and his colleagues were stopped by around 200 vigilantes when transporting dairy cattle they had just bought back to their village. The cow is sacred in Hindu tradition and protected by India’s constitution. Vigilantes have harassed, assaulted or killed individuals suspected of slaughtering cows.
Shortly before his death, Mr Khan made a statement to police identifying the six people responsible for assaulting him, but all criminal charges against them – including murder – were dropped. Although authorities failed to make headway in the murder case, 11 Muslim men attacked with Mr Khan were arrested in connection with offences under Rajasthan’s cow protection law.
Protests were organised in New Delhi and elsewhere in response to the growing violence targeting Muslims and low-caste Dalits by Hindu vigilantes. Attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Christians, drastically increased following the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s landslide victory in the March 2017 elections.
The leaders of the BJP have advocated the Hindutva ideology which sees India as an essentially Hindu nation. Speaking after Mr Khan’s death, politician Rahul Gandhi said this “new vision for India that Narendra Modi… is propagating… is a vision where only one idea will prevail”. However, Prime Minister Modi called for action against cow vigilante groups in August 2017.
At least 10 Muslims were murdered in 2017 by radical Hindu “cow vigilantes”.
LiveMint, Thursday 6th April 2017; Times of India, 25th April 2017; Business Standard (India), 1st February 2018; USCIRF 2018 report