Police in India have arrested three men in eastern Bihar state in connection with the death of a Muslim man who was attacked because he was suspected of carrying beef, a police official said on Saturday.

The victim, Naseem Qureshi, 56, died earlier this week after being attacked by a mob on suspicion of carrying beef, the sale and consumption of which is restricted in some parts of the country by local governments.

Cows are sacred in Hinduism, and there have been frequent attacks on those accused of killing them for meat or leather, predominantly people from the minority Muslim population or those on the lower rungs of India’s ancient caste system.

Hardline Hindu groups have been demanding a complete ban on cow slaughter across India.

Self-styled Hindu cow vigilante groups have taken to enforcing the law themselves ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government came to power in 2014.

Bihar is currently ruled by a regional party, and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party sits in the opposition.

In the latest incident in the state, the victim was allegedly surrounded by over twenty people and attacked, according to a police statement in court.

Police intervened but Qureshi died on the way to the hospital, according to the statement.

Ramchandra Tiwari, head of Rasulpur police station in Bihar, where the crime took place, said by phone that three people were arrested.

Deaths

Last month, two Muslim men abducted and subsequently murdered over alleged cow smuggling in the northern Haryana state. Indian police said one man was arrested.

The bodies of the two men — Junaid, 35 and Nasir, 27 — were discovered in a burnt-out vehicle in Haryana, a day after they went missing.

Both men were from neighbouring Rajasthan state and their families named five men belonging to the Hindu hardline Bajrang Dal group in a criminal complaint to the police after their disappearance.

Rajasthan police had said in a statement that the arrested man was a taxi driver and was also involved with cow vigilante groups.

Hindustan Times reported the prime suspect had denied the allegation and demanded “strict action against the perpetrators”.

It added that Bharatpur Inspector General Gaurav Shrivastava said cases of cow smuggling had been registered against Junaid, while there was no case against Nasir.

Rajasthan minister Zahida Khan visited the victims’ families and announced a sum of around two million Indian rupees each while also saying the state government would try to provide jobs to one member from each family, Hindustan Times stated.

Critics have accused the Modi government of turning a blind eye to vigilante attacks on minority Muslims in the name of cow protection.

Rajasthan and Haryana are among the states that ban cow slaughter, and authorities also require anyone transporting the animals across state borders to have a permit.

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