Cow activist, 4 others held after 2 Muslim cowherds hanged to death

6Police arrested on Saturday five suspects, including an anti-cow slaughter activist, for allegedly killing two Muslim cattle traders in Jharkhand’s Balumath and imposed prohibitory orders to clamp down on flaring communal tensions following the murder.
Police said the five arrested confessed to have killed the traders to snatch cattle and sell it elsewhere for money in a religion where Muslims make up a third of the population.
“Five out of the eight persons involved in the twin murders have been arrested. Three others are absconding. They will soon be arrested. We have obtained complete details about them,” said Latehar superintendent of police Anoop Birtharay.
“We are also working on if they were trying to force the cattle traders cough up money as they had threatened the cattle traders earlier also,” said the SP.
The arrests came a day after local residents found the body of 32-year-old Mazlum Ansari and 13-year-old Imteyaz Khan hanging from a tree with injury marks.
The incident brought back memories of the mob lynching of Mohammad Ikhlaq in Uttar Pradesh last year over rumours that he slaughtered a calf, a crime that sparked off a nationwide debate on rising intolerance and religious fundamentalism.
One of the arrested, Mithilesh Prasad Sahu, is linked to the Gou Kranti Manch, an organisation that works for preserving cow population and opposed to slaughter, police said.
Balumath appeared to return to normalcy, with shops were open and locals busy in routine activities. But police are maintaining extra vigil as the region has a long history of communal tension over cattle trade and consumption, and the sale of beef.
Hindus and Muslims have clashed repeatedly in the past two years since a save-cow campaign was launched in 2013 demanding a ban on cow slaughter and consumption of beef.
In September last year, Hindus and Muslims clashed over an issue relating to the freeing of animals being transported in a truck by cattle traders.
The police said that all five accused hailed from Jhabar village under the Balumath police station area – around 100 kilometres from Ranchi. This village is close to the place where the dead bodies were found hanged.
“Barring one, the arrested persons had no past criminal records. They were engaged in petty business or farming in the village,” the SP said.
The situation in the block was under control with no cases of communal flare-ups reported. Section 144 of CrPC was imposed in Balumath area to prevent any communal clash or assembly of people within the block.
The bodies of the two deceased were buried in the morning at their respective villages Arahara and Dumartand.
The family of the deceased said the duo left their homes on Friday with 10 to 12 cows to sell them at the annual cattle fair at Tutilawa in neighbouring Chatra district.
“We had lost telephonic contact with them at around four in the morning and later we came to know about their murder,” one of the relatives told the police.
“The bodies were hanging on a tree…and their faces were covered with towels,” an eyewitness said.
The Congress said no one could take the law in their hand and announced a fact-finding team that will visit the area on Sunday. “It was a wrongful act and the government is also negligent,” said spokesperson Rajesh Thakur, adding that the incident put the spotlight on intolerance.

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