New Delhi: Police arrested five suspects for allegedly lynching and killing two Muslim cow herders who were found hanging from a tree in central India, an official said Saturday.
The bodies of two cattle traders were found hanging in Jharkhand's Latehar district early on Friday, triggering angry protests by villagers who injured several policemen and blocked roads over police inaction.
"Five suspects have been arrested under several charges including murder. Three other suspects are on the run, but police will find them and make arrests soon," Anil Kumar, a senior district administrator, told AFP.
"The post-mortem reports indicate murder which stemmed from loot and robbery," he said.
The victims, Mazlum Ansari and teenager Imteyaz Khan, were heading to an animal fair in a nearby district when they were allegedly lynched and hanged by a mob.
The area saw clashes between Hindus and Muslims over eating beef three months ago, according to English daily Hindustan Times.
But Kumar dismissed reports of communal disharmony, saying police had not found links to any Hindu right-wing groups so far.
Cow slaughter and the consumption of beef are banned in several states including Jharkhand in officially secular India.
But beef has become a religiously sensitive topic in the country, where the cow is described in scriptures as the "mother" of civilisation.
The main players in the beef industry are Muslims, the country's largest religious minority, who make up some 13 percent of India's 1.25-billion population, and sometimes hostility brews between the two groups over meat issues.
A spate of attacks on secular intellectuals and Muslims suspected of killing cows have heightened concerns of mounting intolerance under right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-year-old government.
In September, a Muslim man was dragged from his house in Uttar Pradesh state and beaten to death by a mob over rumours he had eaten beef – a taboo in the Hindu-majority nation.