India investigates police 'tea break' in lynching case

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian police on Monday (July 23) began an inquiry into officers alleged to have taken a tea break instead of rushing a critically injured lynching victim to hospital.

Mr Akbar Khan, 28, died of his injuries after being attacked by a gang of Hindu "cow vigilantes" in the district of Alwar in Rajasthan state on Friday.

Cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India, where squads of vigilantes often roam highways inspecting livestock trucks.

The murder stoked tension in the area amid media reports police stopped to have a tea break and wasted crucial time instead of taking Mr Khan to hospital.

Police also allegedly cared for the cows first, transporting them to a bovine shelter much farther away.

"Doubts have been cast on the initial response of the local police," state police chief O.P. Galhotra said in a written order seen by AFP on Monday.

"A team has been constituted to look into the circumstances leading to the alleged delay and connected issues."

India's right-wing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of turning a blind eye to a rising number of vigilante attacks on minority Muslims in the name of cow protection.

Rights groups say Hindu mobs have been emboldened under the Hindu nationalist party, which stormed to power in 2014.

The government on Monday sought a report from state authorities on the latest lynching and "steps taken to restore peace" in the area.

It also set up a panel to suggest legal measures to curb mob violence. The panel has been asked to report in the next four weeks.

Slaughtering cows is illegal in many Indian states and some also require a licence for transporting them across state borders.

In two prominent cases last year, a dairy farmer was killed on a roadside for transporting cows and a Muslim teenager accused of carrying beef was stabbed to death on a crowded train.

India has also been rocked by a separate spate of lynchings, with 23 people killed in the last two months after being accused of child kidnapping in viral messages circulated wildly on WhatsApp.