Police in the northern Indian city of Bulandshahr claim their “top priority” is finding the people responsible for the death of several cows, despite the fact one of their own officers was killed during the violence that followed. “Our main concern at this moment is to find out who killed those cows,” a police spokesman told The Indian Express. “Our belief is that once we solve that case, it will throw light on how the murder occurred. The cow-killers are our top priority. The murder and rioting case is on the back burner for now.” Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh died on the morning of December 3 when a riotous mob blocked the road in front of his police post in Uttar Pradesh state, demanding action over rumours of cow slaughter. A postmortem showed a bullet was lodged in his skull. Another man, 20-year-old local Sumit Kumar, also died in the violence. Ajay Kumar, head of Chingrawati village where the incident occurred, said there was a “huge crowd” of people on the day of Singh’s death, whipped into a frenzy by men raising slaughtered “cows’ heads high, again and again”. “The police were trying to disperse the crowd but more and more people kept joining,” he said. Cows are considered sacred by many Hindus and those accused of slaughtering them have been lynched by vigilante mobs in the past. In Uttar Pradesh and many Indian states, it is illegal to even possess beef. Apoorvanand, a professor at Delhi University who writes extensively on human rights and politics, connected such cow vigilantism with what he described as “a long-term project” to turn India into an entirely “Hindu rashtra [nation]”. “The idea behind this kind of violence is to keep the pot boiling so that people remain confused and distracted,” he said. “The plan is to portray the Muslims as a threat, as an enemy and to keep instigating the Hindus against them.” Cow-related violence has been on the rise in India in recent years – particularly since current Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. The plan is to portray the Muslims as a threat, as an enemy Apoorvanand, Delhi University According to a report by data analysts at IndiaSpend, 97 per cent of cow-related violence in the period from 2010 to 2017 took place after Modi’s ascension in May 2014. The analysis further revealed that of the 25 people killed in such incidents, 21 we Muslim. Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath of the BJP, has called Singh’s death “an accident”. Bulandshahr District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said “there’s not a single [shred of] proof to suggest this was a communal incident” and has assured villagers that nobody innocent will be punished. But Kumar, the Chingrawati village head, was not convinced. “Most of our village is empty. Only 10 to 20 people remain. Everyone is scared that they will be put in jail [through] no fault of their own,” he said. He called the incident a “pre-planned” conspiracy, organised by people who “brought in the carcasses”. There has been a series of administrative changes following the violence in Chingrawati. The top officer in the district, Senior Superintendent of Police KB Singh, was replaced for reportedly failing to handle the situation effectively. Two other policemen were also transferred, a day after a detailed report on the incident was handed to Adityanath, the state’s chief minister. According to the latest reports, four people have been arrested in connection with the cow killings. Nine others stand accused of being involved with the deaths of Singh and Sumit Kumar. But the main suspect in Singh’s murder, Yogesh Raj – who has links to the militant Hindu organisation Bajrang Dal – remains at large.