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Two Muslims beaten to death in India over cow theft allegations

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)
The file photo shows members of the vigilante group Gau Raksha Dal (Cow Protection Squad) inspecting a truck on a highway in Taranagar in the desert state of Rajasthan, India. (Photo by AFP)

Two Muslim men have been beaten to death by Indian mobs in the country’s northeast over allegations of stealing cows for slaughter, the latest in a series of similar attacks blamed on hard-line Hindus who consider the animal scared.

The incident occurred in a village in India’s northeastern state of Assam on Sunday after about 20 people attacked the two Muslim young men, beating them with sticks and rocks, police said.

"They were chased and beaten with sticks by villagers, who said the two boys were trying to steal cows from their grazing field," said Debaraj Upadhyay, a high-ranking police official in Assam State.

"By the time we took them to the hospital at night, they had succumbed to their injuries," he added.

Local security forces identified the two victims as Abu Hanifa and Riyazuddin Ali.

Police officials in the northeastern state said investigations had been launched to track down the assailants, but no arrests had so far been made.

The latest incident comes as the third cow-related death in the country over the past month.

Indian women offer ritual food to a cow during celebrations of the Tamil harvest festival in Pongal, eastern India, on January 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Human Rights Watch and activist groups have expressed concern about rising brutal attacks in the South Asian country by self-appointed "cow protectors" against Muslims and lower castes over rumors that they trade or kill cows for beef.

Many critics say that the vigilantes are linked to Hindu radical groups emboldened after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government came to power in 2015. At least 10 Muslims, including a 12-year-old boy, have lost their lives in mob attacks on suspicion of eating beef or smuggling cows since then.

Last year, Modi censured the cow protection vigilantes and called for a crackdown against groups using religion as a fig leaf for committing crimes.

In this photograph taken on March 21, 2017, Indian Muslim butchers and traders with family members gather outside a closed illegal slaughter house at Naini in Allahabad, northern India, on March 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Eighty percent of India's 1.3 billion people are Hindus.

The selling of beef is banned in several Indian states and its consumption is now permitted in only eight of the country’s 29 states and territories.

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