Indian police probed for ‘having tea break rather than taking lynching victim to hospital’ after attack by ‘cow vigilantes’

Officers are accused of catering to themselves first, then making sure a cow was safe before tending to the victim, who died from his injuries

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 11:47pm

Indian police on Monday began an inquiry into officers alleged to have taken a tea break instead of rushing a critically injured lynching victim to hospital.

Akbar Khan, 28, died of his injuries after being attacked by a gang of Hindu “cow vigilantes” in the district of Alwar in Rajasthan state on Friday while walking home a dairy cow he had bought. Cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India, where squads of vigilantes roam highways inspecting livestock trucks.

The Muslim man’s murder stoked tension in the area amid media reports that police also allegedly cared for the cows first, transporting them to a bovine shelter much farther away.

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His friend, Aslam Khan, 30, told Al Jazeera that they had just bought two dairy cows and were walking them home when they were attacked by a group of men.

“Akbar was holding the ropes we had tied to the cow and I was walking behind him,” Aslam Khan said. “Suddenly, we heard the roar of a motorcycle and some firing in the air.

“Immediately both of us let go of the cows and ran. I hid in the cotton fields while those men caught up with Akbar and started thrashing him. I could hear him screaming but I fled to save my life.”

An autopsy found that Khan died after his ribs were broken, leading to water filling his lungs, local news reported, according to Al Jazeera.

“Doubts have been cast on the initial response of the local police,” state police chief O.P. Galhotra said. “A team has been constituted to look into the circumstances leading to the alleged delay and connected issues.”

India’s right-wing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of turning a blind eye to a rising number of vigilante attacks on minority Muslims in the name of cow protection.

Rights groups say Hindu mobs have been emboldened under the Hindu nationalist party, which stormed to power in 2014.

The government on Monday sought a report from state authorities on the latest lynching and “steps taken to restore peace” in the area. It also set up a panel to suggest legal measures to curb mob violence. The panel has been asked to report in the next four weeks.

Slaughtering cows is illegal in many Indian states and some also require a licence for moving them across state borders.

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In two prominent cases last year, a dairy farmer was killed on a roadside for moving cows and a Muslim teenager accused of carrying beef was stabbed to death on a crowded train.

India has also been rocked by a separate spate of lynchings, with 23 people killed in the last two months after being accused of child kidnapping in viral messages circulated wildly on WhatsApp.