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Muslim man accused of cow smuggling beaten to death in India

Activists of 'Bhartiya Dalit Panther Group' protest against an earlier attack on Dalit caste members in Gujarat town, Ahmedabad, India, July 19, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

A Muslim man has been beaten to death by mobs in western India over allegations of smuggling cows, the latest in a series of similar attacks blamed on hard-line Hindus who consider the animal sacred.

The incident took place in Alwar district, Rajasthan state, midnight Friday, when a group of five to seven people attacked the man, identified as Akbar, and beat him with sticks, police said.

The 28-year-old victim, along with another man, was taking the dairy animals to a village in neighboring Haryana state. Police said they took the victim to a nearby hospital, but he was declared dead.

"We are investigating the incident and will make arrests soon," Shyam Singh, a police official in Alwar, told Reuters.

Anil Kumar Beniwal, another district police official, said the victim was accompanied by another friend who managed to escape.

In a post on Twitter, Rajasthan’s chief minister condemned the incident and promised stern action. “The strictest possible action shall be taken against the perpetrators,” said Vasundhara Raje.

The incident is the latest such attack by Hindu vigilantes in India, where there have been a spate of assaults against Muslims and low-caste Dalits.

In the same district in April 2017, Pehlu Khan, 55, another Muslim man, was lynched by a mob as he rode home from a market with two cows and two calves in the back of his truck.

In September 2015, a Muslim man from a village near Delhi was lynched after being accused of storing beef in his freezer.

In August 2016, videos emerged showing young Dalits, India’s least socially dominant caste tasked with disposing of dead cows, being flogged for handling the animals’ carcasses.

Demands by right-wing Hindu groups to stop the slaughter of cows, considered holy in Hinduism, could fuel communal tension with Muslims.

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

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.

Many Hindus regard the cow as sacred, but India's Muslim minority engages in the trade of cattle for slaughter and consumption, chiefly of buffalo meat, as well as dairy purposes.

Cow vigilantism by pro-Hindu groups has surged in India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, although most of the country's 29 states have banned the killing of cows for meat.

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