Indian police are searching for around a dozen people who tortured a Muslim man for hours, forcing him to shout Hindu slogans and capturing it on a video, which has gone viral since the victim died.
A 10-minute video shows scores of men beating Tabrez Ansari in the latest suspected case of religious violence to stain India’s secular image. The mob also forced Ansari to shout “Jai Shri Ram” – Hail Lord Ram – a slogan widely used by Hindu hardliners.
Ansari died in hospital on Saturday, four days after he was attacked, tied to a pole, then beaten and punched over accusations that he carried out a burglary in Jharkhand state.
“We have arrested the main accused for the murder, but a dozen people from the mob are on the run,” Kartik S., the Seraikela police chief, told AFP.
Kartik said the villagers accused the 24-year-old of being a thief and beat him for nearly 12-hours before he was taken into custody and then hospital. He acknowledged that the video showed Ansari being forced to shout the Hindu slogans.
News of the death emerged as the Indian government rejected a US State Department report that said religious intolerance and violence against minorities has spiked under the right-wing Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The US religious freedom report said there had been growing numbers of attacks by groups claiming to protect cows – considered sacred by Hindus – on Muslims and low-caste Dalits since 2014 when Modi came to power.
The foreign ministry said: “India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion.”
Dozens of people have been killed by Hindu groups over the past five years over allegations that they had slaughtered cows or eaten beef. Experts said the landslide election win in 2014 by Modi’s conservative Bharatiya Janata Party had emboldened Hindus hardliners.
The BJP won an even bigger majority in May leading to fears of more communal violence. Critics have accused Modi government of turning a blind eye to vigilante attacks on minority Muslims in the name of cow protection.
Modi has called the deaths “unacceptable” and called the mobs “anti-social” in his rare comments on the cases. Slaughtering cows is illegal in many Indian states and some require a license to transport them across state borders.