Human Rights Watch called Monday for a greater response against cow protection vigilante groups in India.
Between May 2015 and December 2018, 44 people were killed and 280 injured in attacks by militant Hindu groups against those linked to beef consumption in the country. Most of the victims are Muslim minorities, from indigenous communities or from the Dalit group.
Local police are accused of improperly responding to the violence. In one-third of cases, family members of the victims were charged with violating laws for slaughtering cows instead of investigating the violence. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has increased cow protection laws in several states in India since coming to power in May 2014. In four cases, the police are accused of covering up crimes and were complicit in the death of the victim. Details were falsified in one case and the initial investigation was delayed in two other cases.
The report calls on India to implement a Supreme Court directive that calls for serious consequences for mob violence. It also calls for investigations into police inaction regarding vigilante violence and impartial investigations. Senior state and high-ranking police officials are also called upon to make public statements against the perpetrators of mob violence. India is also called upon to increase protections for witnesses, who now face threats from both the accused and police.
The report also calls for laws restricting cattle trade to be “consistent with the right to a livelihood.” Slaughterhouses are predominantly operated by Muslim minorities. Creating leather goods from cattle is predominantly done by members of the Dalit community.
Foreign governments are called upon to urge the Indian government to protect minorities and denounce the communal violence. Foreign governments are also encouraged to help train police in human rights and support local governments in the collection of communal violence data.
There have been previous calls for India to create new legislation to protect against religious violence. In January UN special rapporteurs expressed concern for extrajudicial police killings in India, which mostly concerned Muslim families.