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Tribal Christian lynched for selling beef in India

Church officials condemn 'dangerous trend' of cow vigilantism after third murder in five months in Jharkhand

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Tribal Christian lynched for selling beef in India

Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers burn an effigy of the Bihar government as they protest the mob lynching of three men on suspicion of cattle theft in the eastern state on July 22. (IANS photo)

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A mob has attacked and killed a Christian tribal man and injured two others accused of slaughtering a cow and selling beef in India’s Jharkhand state.

A 15-strong cow vigilante group attacked Kalantus Barla, Fagu Kachhapand and Phillip Hahoro on Sept. 22 in the eastern state.

Barla died hours after the attack and the other two are in hospital with severe injuries, police officer V. Homkar told media on Sept. 23.

The mob reportedly found them selling beef in a market in Jaltanda Suari village of Khunti district.

The attackers came from neighboring villages after news of an alleged cow slaughter spread through social media messages, local media reports said.

Homkar said police had arrested five people linked with the crime.

Barla is the third person to be lynched in the state in the last five months. Muslim Tabrez Ansari was killed in June, while in April a mob lynched a tribal Christian in Gumla district for skinning a dead bull. Three people were also injured.

Church people have condemned the "dangerous trend" of cow vigilantism.

"We condemn it ... because we have laws to punish those committing crimes," said Father Anand David Xalxo, public relations officer of Ranchi Archdiocese in the state capital.

Cow slaughter is prohibited by law in the state, just as in most other Indian states, but mobs trying to enforce the law cannot be tolerated, the priest said.

Mob violence "in the name of religion is a dangerous trend" as it meant "a bunch of people using their power to suppress the poor and downtrodden," Father Xalxo added.

Cow vigilantism to protect the holy cow of Hinduism gained momentum after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in New Delhi and Jharkhand in 2014.

Since May 2015, at least 12 people have been reported killed over the issue.

At least 25 people have died in cow-related violence since 2010 and 21 of them were Muslims, according to a recent report by IndiaSpend, a data website.

At least 139 people were also injured in these attacks. More than half of the attacks were based on rumors, it said.

Jharkhand "has become a laboratory for mob lynching and that is a very wrong signal for all of us," said tribal leader Ratan Tirkey, a member of the state government's tribes advisory committee

Tirkey told ucanews.com that the trend might "ultimately split our society, which was once considered a place of love and brotherhood."

A.C. Michael, a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, said the latest attack was a matter of concern among minority communities.

He noted that most cow vigilante attacks used to target Muslims but were now targeting tribal and Dalit communities.

"Tribal people are targeted because the state machinery favors vigilante groups. Some might be using cow protection as an excuse to sort out their personal issues," said Michael, who demanded a high-level probe into such cases.

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