Int’l human rights group urges India to stop violence against Muslims

Int’l human rights group urges India to stop violence against Muslims

NEW YORK: A prominent international human rights group Friday called on Indian authorities to promptly investigate and prosecute self-appointed 'cow protectors' who have committed brutal attacks against Muslims and Dalits over rumours that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef.

Instead of taking prompt legal action against the vigilantes, New York-based Human Right Watch pointed out that many linked to extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the police, too often, have filed complaints against the assault victims, their relatives, and associates under laws banning cow slaughter.

"Self-appointed 'cow protectors' driven by irresponsible populism are killing people and terrorizing minority communities," Meenakshi Ganguly, South

Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

"The government should condemn this violence and take prompt action against those responsible for these attacks or face allegations of complicity."

Human Rights Watch said that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government came to power in 2015, at least 10 Muslims have been killed in mob attacks related to allegations over cows. Modi has condemned the attacks.

Eighty percent of India's 1.3 billion people are Hindu, who consider cows to be sacred. The selling of beef is banned in several Indian states.

In one recent case, on April 21, 2017, HRW said in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir state, a mob brutally attacked five members of a nomad cattle-herding family, including a 9-year-old girl, on suspicion that they were taking their cows for slaughter. A video posted on social media showed a group of men chanting slogans commonly used by BJP supporters, breaking down the family's shelter, beating an elderly man with rods and sticks even as women begged for mercy, and finally setting the shelter on fire. Several policemen can be seen in the video while the mob carries out the attack, but they appeared to be outnumbered and stay back when the mob pushes them back. Police have arrested 11 people for the assault.

On April 22, it said purported animal rights activists in New Delhi allegedly belonging to People for Animals, which is led by a BJP official, beat up three men in a truck for transporting buffaloes. Initially, the police failed to arrest anyone for the assault or investigate the role of People for Animals, which denied involvement in the attack. Instead, the police arrested the three victims under a law preventing cruelty to animals after the injured victims were taken to a hospital.

The men were released on bail a day later. Two days after the incident, the police arrested a Delhi resident who claimed to be a member of People for Animals.

The police were informed of the incident by another member of People for Animals who was allegedly part of a 'raid team' that regularly stops vehicles to see whether they contain cattle.

People for Animals, which started as an animal rights group, said that since 2014 it has shut down some of its city units, including in Delhi, due to allegations of vigilantism and extortion against its members.

Among the largest cow protection networks is the Bharatiya Gau Raksha Dal ('India Cow Protection Group'), an umbrella organization registered in 2012, Human rights Watch said. Its leader, Pawan Pandit, has said that the network is affiliated with about 50 groups across the country and that their 10,000 volunteers have a presence in nearly every state.

"Now the entire India is a cow protection group because people are angered by such cruelty to animals," Pandit said, adding that even the BJP government was not strong enough on cow protection.

He denied allegations of violence by his members, saying those were spontaneous acts by local residents angered by the ill-treatment and slaughter of cows.

"The mild admonitions from BJP leaders when Muslims and Dalits are lynched over cows sends a message that the BJP supports this violence," HRW's Ms. Ganguly said. "Instead of a government that took office on the promise of universal development, it now appears to be one unwilling to protect those most vulnerable." (APP)