India 'cow lynching': Police accused of delaying help

Indians revere cows Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hindus consider cows sacred and killing them is illegal in several states, including Rajasthan

Police in India's western state of Rajasthan have been accused of delays in helping a man who was lynched for alleged cow smuggling and later died.

Rakbar, 31, was attacked, allegedly by a mob of cow vigilantes, on Friday.

It reportedly took police three hours to take him to the nearest hospital.

Hindus consider cows sacred and killing them is illegal in several states, including Rajasthan. So-called cow vigilantism has risen, aimed at protecting them from slaughter.

The issue has become a matter of fierce debate.

Congress party president Rahul Gandhi said the latest lynching was an example of PM Narendra Modi's "brutal New India". Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party fired back, calling Mr Gandhi a "merchant of hate".

The latest incident occurred on Friday night in the town of Alwar.

Police were informed about the attack at 00:41 by Nawal Kishore Sharma, a member of a right-wing Hindu group. But hospital records show that Rakbar was brought to hospital only at 04:00.

Police say he died on the way to hospital, which was only five kilometres away.

"There are allegations that the policemen on duty took too long to take the victim to hospital," senior police official Rajendra Singh told BBC Hindi's Narayan Bareth. "We're currently investigating the matter."

Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption Local lawmaker Gyan Dev Ahuja says police are framing "innocent locals"

The police have arrested three people who were allegedly part of the mob that attacked Rakbar.

But local lawmaker Gyan Dev Ahuja said the police were framing "innocent locals".

Mr Sharma told the BBC: "Rakbar died in police custody because of their carelessness and the police are unnecessarily blaming the group. How can it take the police so long to cover a distance of five to six kilometres?"

Image copyright Mansi Thapliyal
Image caption Nawal Kishore Sharma is one of the leaders of a cow protection group

'We are milk traders'

Salman Ravi, BBC Hindi

Rakbar came from the Mewat region of Haryana state. On Friday night, he was with his friend, Aslam, who managed to escape from the cow protection group that attacked them.

Aslam told the BBC that as he and Rakbar were crossing a forest on the border of the states of Rajasthan and Haryana, a group of people suddenly started firing at them.

"When they fired, my cow jumped into the nearby fields out of fear. Then suddenly the men pounced on me," he said. "Some of them said they would break my leg. Some said they would break my hands. It was scary."

Aslam realised he would get killed if he didn't flee. So when some of the men were busy overpowering Rakbar, he managed to run into the forest.

Rakbar's father, Suleiman, regrets allowing his son to go to Alwar to buy a pair of cows.

"I had asked him not to go to Alwar because I knew it wasn't safe there," he said. "Organised groups have been attacking milk traders like us."

But Rakbar insisted on going because he thought that buying more cows would help the family.

His wife, Asmina, is pregnant with their eighth child. "Who is going to take care of the children now?" she asked. "We have been devastated. What did we do wrong?"

This is the third incident of alleged cow-vigilantism in Alwar in about a year.

One of the most high-profile incidents occurred when a dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan, was beaten to death by cow vigilantes affiliated with ring-wing Hindu groups.

Incidents of such vigilantism have become increasingly common in India, but police investigations have often led to acquittals.

However, in March 2018, a court in the northern state of Jharkhand for the first time sentenced 11 men to life in prison for lynching a Muslim meat trader.

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