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Suspected Hindu cow protection 'goons' attack Muslim family in Kashmir

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Indian devotees worship a cow during Gai Puja, cow worship, as part of the Gopal Ashtami festival, in Amritsar on November 8, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

A group of cow vigilantes has attacked a Muslim family in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, injuring the family members, including a minor girl.

The incident occurred in Talwara area of Reasi district in the northern province of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday evening, when the attackers, allegedly belonging to a right-wing Hindu group, stormed a Muslim family's residence and, using iron rods, began beating up the five members of the family.

Regional police chief Shesh Paul Vaid, who confirmed the attack on Saturday, said the assault had been carried out by some “goons”. The family, however, said a “cow protection” group had been behind the attack, adding that the assailants also took away all their livestock, including 16 cows and a number of goats and sheep.

Among the wounded was a 9-year-old girl who suffered several fractures and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

“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,” said Naseem Begam, a survivor.

“They even beat our elders very badly. They wanted to kill us and throw our bodies into the river,” she added.

Vaid said police had already launched an investigation into the incident, vowing that "strict action" would be taken against the culprits. No arrests have been made so far.

Cows are sacred in Hindu religion and those who disrespect them, eat beef or smuggle them will often face severe punishment. During the recent months, a number of reports of so-called cow protection groups have emerged, which sparked panic among the Muslim community across northern India.

Some Muslims have been either murdered or wounded in similar incidents over allegations of eating beef or transporting cows.

Kashmiri students clash with Indian government forces near a college in central Srinagar's Lal Chowk, April 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both since the two partitioned and gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed territory. They, however, reached an agreement to maintain a ceasefire in Kashmir in November 2003.

Since then, there have been sporadic clashes, with the two sides trading accusations of violating the ceasefire, but no major armed conflict between the two countries.

The region has also witnessed an increase in mass protests and violent attacks since early July last year, when a top pro-independence figure was killed in a shootout with Indian troops. Dozens of people have lost their lives in the ensuing crackdown. The crackdown, however, has failed to halt the protests.

India has already deployed about 500,000 soldiers in its portion of the disputed region, where rebel groups have for decades been fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.

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