India's top court proposed measures on Wednesday to stop what it called "growing violence by vigilantes" who claim to be protecting cows, revered as holy by Hindus.

India is reeling from a spate of horrific lynchings by Hindu extremists mostly targeting the country's Muslim minority, who have historically eaten beef.

Critics say that extremists emboldened by the current Hindu nationalist government's tough stance on cow slaughter are using beef as a pretext to target the community.

The Supreme Court was responding to a private petition from Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi.

It said state governments should appoint senior police officers tasked specifically with curbing such attacks.

“There should be a planned strategy to stop growing violence in this sphere,” said the judges, headed by India's Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

The slaughter of cows and the possession or consumption of beef is banned in most Indian states, with some imposing life sentences for breaking the law.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party has promised to completely outlaw cow slaughter across India, and has been accused of turning a blind eye to attacks carried out in the name of protecting the animals.

The latest was just last month when villagers in eastern India beat two Muslims to death as they transported cattle.

Police said the villagers in the eastern state of West Bengal, one of the few to permit cow slaughter, blocked the road, forcing the men to stop before dragging them out of their vehicle and killing them.

Modi broke his long silence on the issue to condemn such killings in June this year after a Muslim teenager was stabbed to death on a train.

The victim's attackers had accused him and his relatives of carrying beef.

But rights groups say there is a culture of impunity for crimes committed against Muslims and have urged the nationalist government to do more to protect the secular fabric of the world's largest democracy.

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