Ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, beef and cow protection have been one of the much debated topics across India. Cow vigilantism gained widespread media spotlight in September 2015 after a 60-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri for allegedly possessing beef. However, forensic reports later revealed that he had in fact possessed mutton, not beef.
Cow vigilantism has been in the news lately after Yogi Adityanath took over as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The blanket ban on slaughter across the state and the alleged forced closure of meat shops in the state highlight the growing vigilantism by "gau rakshaks".
Here are a few gau rakshak attacks across India since the 28 September, 2015 Dadri lynching:
Udhampur truck attack
On 9 October 2015, a truck was attacked by petrol bombs by alleged Hindu extremists after rumours of it carrying dead cows emerged. Zahid Ahmad, the truck driver succumbed to his injuries 10 days later, while another man suffered serious burn injuries.
As news of the death in Delhi spread, mobs took to the streets in the southern district of Anantnag in the Kashmir Valley and blocked the Jammu-Srinagar highway by burning tyres.
The highway is the only road link between the Kashmir Valley and the rest of India.
They also shouted slogans against the government, and pelted stones at security personnel who tried to disperse them.
According to NDTV, the forensic report later concluded that the cows died due to food poisoning and had not been slaughtered.
Seven people were arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police for the murder of Zahid.
Ink attack on Kashmiri MLA
Just 10 days after the Udhampur attack, Independent MLA Engineer Rashid was attacked by activists belonging to the Hindu Sena. The activists blackened his face just after he finished a press conference condemning the 9 October attack.
Some activists shouting slogans "gow mata ka apman, nahi sahega Hindustan (India will not tolerate any disrespect to cow)" had pounced on him and painted him with black colour, engine oil and blue ink.
A visibly disturbed Rashid addressed the media after the ink attack and said, "What happened to Sudheendra Kulkarni has happened to me...The world should see where India stands today."
"They (the attackers) are mentally sick. I want the whole world to see how these people are trying to muzzle the voice of Kashmiris," he said. "Talibanisation is not just taking place in Pakistan. It is happening all over India too," CNN-IBN quoted Rashid as saying.
The MLA later had also demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the assault on him.
Himachal Pradesh lynching
Just around the same time as the Udhampur killing, a 20-year-old truck driver from Saharanpur was lynched by a village mob in Himachal Pradesh. The villagers belived that the victim Norman indulged in cow smuggling had been carrying cattle from the state to Uttar Pradesh, The Indian Express reported.
Madhya Pradesh couple attacked
In January 2016, several passengers, including a Muslim couple, were attacked by a cow protection group over allegations that they were carrying beef.The incident had taken place at Khirkiya railway station in the Harda district of Madhya Pradesh.
Similar to the incident in Dadri where Mohammad Akhlaq was killed after rumours of storing beef, the pieces of meat found in a bag were sent to a laboratory for 'testing', after which it was found that it was buffalo meat.
The police had registered a case against two Gauraksha Samiti activists for voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation, and arrested them.
Cattle traders hanged
In March 2016, two Muslim cattle traders were found hanged to death in Jharkhand's Latehar district.
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.
Five people were arrested under the charge of murder, while the police suspected it to be connected with cattle loot.
Muslim man shot dead
Mustain Abbas, a 27-year-old father of four, who was travelling back home after buying bulls from Haryana was allegedly fired upon by Gau Raksha Dal members on 5 April 2016. A month later, the CBI ordered a probe into his murder, The Wire reported.
Karnataka Dalit family attacked
On 17 June, 2016, a 30-40 members of Bajrang Dal brutally attacked a Dalit family in Koppa, Karnataka, for allegedly possessing beef.
According to a report in DNA, the patriarch of the family suffered a fracture on his hand while other members of the family suffered minor internal injuries.
Local police filed a case against the attackers under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015.
This was after Dalit rights groups insisted that action be taken against the Bajrang Dal members.
Una flogging incident
On 11 July 2016, Dalit youths were beaten up outside Mota Samadhiyala village, when they were skinning a dead cow brought from Bediya village.
The victims included Vashram Sarvaiya, his brother Ramesh, and their cousins Ashok and Bechar, all residents of Mota Samadhiyala.
Later, the members of the Gau Raksha Dal took them to nearby Una town and again thrashed them with sticks and iron rods after tying them to a vehicle. They were also paraded half-naked on the road in full public view.
Five persons were booked under Section 307 (attempt to murder), Section 395 (loot) of the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Three of them were later arrested.
the Una attack outraged the Dalit community in Gujarat and led to widespread protests across the state.
Later, a forensic report revealed that the cow skinned by the Dalits had been killed by a Gir lion.
Muslim women beaten up
On 26 July, 2016, two Muslim women were beaten up at Mandsaur railway station by the members of the Bajrang Dal, on the suspicion of carrying beef, which later turned out to be calf meat.
The suspects were arrested under Sections 341, 323 and 34 of the IPC, which pertain to punishment for wrongful restraint, voluntarily causing hurt and acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention respectively.
"When we were coming to Mandsaur, few Bajrang Dal activists stopped us and enquired about what we were carrying. We told them that it was 'Paade ke meat' (buffalo calf meat) they did not listen to us and said that it was beef," Salma, one of the victims, had told PTI.
Andhra Pradesh vigilantism
In August 2016, two men belonging to the lower caste came under attack from cow vigilantes.
According to NDTV, Mokati Elisa and his brother Lazar were hired to skin a cow that had died of electrocution, the police said. While they were on the job, the brothers were attacked by around 100 gau rakshaks who arrived at the spot accusing them of stealing and killing the animal.
Pehlu Khan murder
On 1 April, 2017, Pehlu Khan and at least four others were injured when a mob attacked nearly 15 persons hailing from Haryana, while transporting cows in vehicles on the Behror highway in Alwar district on Saturday, the police said. As many as 16 people were allegedly transporting 36 bovine animals illegally in six pick up vans.
Khan, in his fifties, later died on the night of 3 April in a hospital where he had been admitted for treatment.
A report in The Indian Express further reported that Khan and the others were beaten up even after they produced documents to show that they had bought the cows and were not involved in illegal cow smuggling.
"Gau rakshaks affiliated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal stopped four vehicles, near Jaguwas crossing on National Highway 8, on the evening of 1 April, alleging that they were illegally transporting bovines.
“Before he died, Pehlu told us that they beat him up and then told him to run, saying ‘tu buddha aadmi hai, bhaag’ (you’re an old man, run away)… But they chased him and beat him up again,” Khan's uncle had told police.
Shockingly, one of the accused in the case, Vipin Yadav was hailed as a modern day "Bhagat Singh" by a woman cow vigilante Sadhvi Kamal.
Jammu and Kashmir attack
Five people of a family, including a 9-year-old girl, were injured in an attack by self-styled cow vigilantes in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to NDTV, the incident took place on the evening of 21 April when a nomad family, moving with their livestock near the Talwara area, were intercepted by a large group of gau rakshaks and beaten up with iron rods.
Four members of the gau rakshak group were arrested, police said on Saturday.
"They beat us ruthlessly. Somehow we managed to flee from there. One of our children, a 10-year-old, is still missing. We don't know whether he is alive or dead. They even beat our elders very badly. They wanted to kill us and throw our bodies into the river," said Naseem Begam, one of the victims expressing the horrors of the attack told NDTV.
Delhi cow vigilantes
Three men were allegedly roughed up by members of an animal rights group in Kalkaji area on the night of 21 April for transporting buffaloes in a truck. They were later arrested for inhumane transportation of animals. The trio was later released on bail, while those who had attacked them have been asked to join the probe, police said.
Following the incident, two FIRs were filed — one against the three men transporting the cattle and another against those who assaulted them, police said. The trio has been booked for mischief by killing or maiming cattle and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as they were carrying more number of animals in a truck than rules permit. However, the men had legal transit papers for transporting the animals.
Mohammad Rizwan, one of the men who sustained injuries, told The Times of India, afraid that he might get lynched by cow vigilantes — like what had happened in Alwar — he decided to play dead for a few minutes.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 03, 2017 11:26:34 IST