India court jails 11 men for life over ‘beef’ murder

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An Indian court has sentenced 11 men to life in prison for killing a Muslim meat trader they suspected of transporting beef, in the first convictions over so-called “cow vigilantism”.

The men, including a worker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, were found guilty of killing Alimuddin Ansari in the eastern state of Jharkhand in June 2017.

It was one of a series of attacks related to cows, which are considered sacred by Hindus.

The men were charged with murder and rioting, among other offences, under India’s penal code and a court in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district delivered its verdict on Wednesday.

“The fast-track court handed them the life sentence yesterday,” Rajesh Kumar, a senior police officer in Ramgarh told AFP by phone on Thursday.

“It is the first case in which a court has convicted and punished (perpetrators) for cow vigilantism.”

The police officer said a dozen men were arrested over the murder but the court deferred its decision on the twelfth accused who is said to be a minor.

India has witnessed a wave of rising tensions over the killing and smuggling of cows in the Hindu-majority country, where their slaughter is a punishable offence in many states, including Jharkhand.

A number of people, particularly Muslims and low-caste Dalits, have been targeted for allegedly killing cows or consuming beef.

Similar cases of cow vigilante violence are at the trial stage, according to Indian media reports.