Extremist Hindu vigilantes have allegedly hanged two Muslim cattle traders in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. The killing of cows is forbidden in the Hindu religion, as opposed to Islam.
The bodies of Mazlum Ansari and Imtiaz Khan were found hanging from a tree on Friday in Jharkhand's Latehar district. They had been herding cows to an animal fair when they were allegedly beaten and killed by suspected cattle protection vigilantes.
Police have arrested five suspects in connection with the killings, Latehar police chief Anup Birtharay told the DPA news agency.
"We are looking for others involved in the incident," Birtharay said. "So far we have not found any affiliation of these persons with any Hindu radical group. We are still examining," he added.
Villagers blocked a highway on Friday, protesting against the hangings. The Hindustan Times newspaper reported Saturday that protesters clashed with security officials, injuring at least six of them.
Ansari and Khan were residents of Balumath, which is 110 kilometers (70 miles) from Ranchi, a city that saw violent clashes between Hindus and minority Muslims over the eating of beef three months ago.
Unlike Islam, the Hindu religion strictly forbids the slaughtering of cows, which it considers a sacred animal.
Attacks on Muslims killing cows or eating beef have increased in India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. In September, a man was lynched in the state of Uttar Pradesh for allegedly eating beef.
"Four months ago, a group of men tried to kill a cattle trader in Gomia village … The man managed to escape," said Prakash Ram, a Jharkhand legislator. "They are supported by the police who do no act against them."
A BJP state leader in Jharkhand said the government was taking action against the culprits.
But the Communist Party of India said in a statement that "the horrible incident is a result of the sustained communal campaign conducted by the Hindu outfits."
ss/jm (Reuters, dpa)