Rakbar Khan was walking his two cows home to Kolgaon village when he was attacked last month in the Indian state, Rajasthan. The attackers were a group of suspected cow vigilantes. Khan later died in the hospital of his injuries.
Groups of Hindus calling themselves “cow protectors” attack people they suspect of killing cows or eating cow meat. Hindus consider the cow to be a holy animal. Rakbar Khan is Muslim.
Many Muslims in northern India are dairy farmers, and they fear their traditional work is now under threat.
The deadly incidents have increased since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to power. A major goal of the party has been cow protection. Critics say the party is using cow protection laws to attack Muslims, Dalits and Christians.
The victim’s family says Khan took a loan to buy the cows. The father of seven children planned to sell cow milk. The families in Kolgaon village have raised animals for generations.
“He had five cows which had stopped giving milk,” says his cousin Mohammad Akbar. “He thought two more cows would provide milk for his kids and he could also sell some in the market to support his family.”
Poorer people in the village buy cows because they cost a lot less than buffaloes. “Four cows give 60 kilograms of milk. People sell it and the money looks after their daily needs,” said Fazruddin Khan, a village leader.
There are about 1,500 cattle and 5,000 people in Kolgaon. Village leaders say fear of attack has led people to stop buying cows.
Three people have been arrested in connection with the killing of Rakbar Khan. But that has not eased fears. Kolgaon village borders Rajasthan state where cow vigilantes have been very active.
Cow vigilantes have carried out 60 attacks across India since 2010. They are most common in northern India. Almost all the attacks took place after the BJP rose to power in 2014, reported data research website IndiaSpend.
Twenty-eight of those 60 people were killed, the website reported. And, almost all of the dead were Muslims. Dalits have also been targeted.
The BJP has distanced itself from such groups and condemned the attacks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has publicly criticized cow vigilantism and called on state governments to punish those who incite violence “in the name of cow protection.”
In a recent interview for the Times of India newspaper, Modi said that his government is committed to protecting the life and liberty of every citizen.
Khan’s death has shocked both Hindus and Muslims in the village they have shared peacefully for generations. “We are like brothers,” said Har Lal, the former village council head.
Political experts wonder why officials are not doing more to stop the cow vigilantes. They say the vigilantes are causing a sense of insecurity among the country’s Muslims, who represent about 14 percent of India’s population.
“There is a certain climate that has been created, that certain kinds of crime, people will get away with,” said political expert Neerja Chowdhury in New Delhi.
In Khan’s case, the public has questioned police actions following the attack. The officers took Khan’s cows to a shelter before getting him to a hospital. He laid, wounded, on the ground for three hours.
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
Anjana Pasricha reported this story for VOA News. Alice Bryant adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
vigilante – n. a person who is not a police officer but who tries to catch and punish criminals
data – n. facts or information used usually to calculate, analyze, or plan something
certain – adj. not having any doubt about something