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Archbishop calls for action against rampant cow vigilantes

BHOPAL (UCAN): “This kind of brutality is not acceptable in a civilised society,” Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India, said in reaction to new attacks by so-called cow vigilantes.
Police in the district of Seoni detained five people on May 25 for assaulting three people—a Muslim man and woman and their Hindu driver—on May 22. The three were allegedly transporting 140 kilogrammes of beef. 
The arrest came on the heels of public outrage after a video, uploaded to the Internet, showing a group of men tying the victims to a tree and beating them, went viral.
One victim was seen being untied and pushed to the ground before being thrashed with sticks. The attackers then forced him to hit the woman with a slipper and shout “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram).
“It is high time that the government took stringent action against cow vigilantes who take the law into their hands,” the archbishop said.
Police told media that both the attackers and the victims are in judicial custody. Police also removed the violent video from social media to check its spread.
A state law prohibits cow slaughter and consumption of beef, making them punishable crimes.
Hindu groups, who revere the cow as their mother-god, support cow vigilantism, but took a violent turn across India after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed power in New Delhi in 2014.
Madhya Pradesh is governed by the Congress Party, which last December unseated the BJP which had been in power in Madhya Pradesh for 15 years.
The last five years have brought several incidents of cow vigilantes attacking people on suspicion of transporting cows for slaughter or carrying beef.
At least 28 people were lynched between 2010 and 2017, with 97 per cent of cases happening since 2014, according to published reports.
Laws exist in 24 out of the 29 Indian states significantly restricting or banning cattle slaughter, economically marginalising Muslims and Dalits, many of whom work in the beef or leather industries.
Archbishop Cornelio said the latest action by cow vigilantes “amounts to challenging the state” and urged the state government to bring lawbreakers to justice to ensure communal peace.
“This kind of open display of terror(ism) will lead to communal division and lawlessness, and no civilised society can afford it,” the archbishop said, noting that cow vigilantism has virtually become an attack on Muslims. 
Prominent Muslim leaders such as former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, were among the politicians who condemned the incident.
Mufti said she was “horrified to see cow vigilantes thrash an innocent Muslim with such impunity.” She wanted Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Kamal Nath, to take “swift action against these goons.”
Christian leader, Prabhakar Tirkey, said the BJP’s recent landslide victory in the national elections has emboldened hardline Hindu groups.
“Unless the top leaders of the Hindu party initiate action against such elements, it will continue,” he said.
Recognising the challenge posed by cow vigilantes to the peaceful coexistence of different communities, India’s Supreme Court recommended that parliament draft a law to nip the menace in the bud in July last year.

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