Indian PM Modi slams spate of murders over cow worship, police arrest four for killing Muslim teen

Indian protesters hold placards as they gather during a 'Not in my name' silent protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on June 28, 2017, following a spate anti-Muslim killings.
Indian protesters hold placards as they gather during a 'Not in my name' silent protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on June 28, 2017, following a spate anti-Muslim killings.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday (June 29) condemned murder in the name of protecting cows, which are worshipped by the country’s majority Hindus, after a string of killings targeting Muslims and other minorities.

“Killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti (cow worship) is not acceptable. This not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve,” Mr Modi said.

Mr Modi’s comments come just days after the stabbing murder of Junaid Khan by a group of men who accused the 15-year-old Muslim and his brother of carrying beef.

India has been suffering a wave of vigilante murders, with at least 10 Muslims killed by mobs since April, said rights group Amnesty International.

Khan’s murder sparked protests across Indian cities, with demonstrators calling for an end to the violence under the slogan “not in my name”.

Mr Modi expressed his “pain and anguish at the current environment” in India, listing incidents of vigilante violence.

“No person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands in this country. Violence has and never will solve any problem,” the prime minister said.

Indian police said on Thursday they have arrested four people over the murder of Khan on a train, the latest in a slew of hate crimes against Muslims in the largely Hindu nation.

A group of men attacked Khan and his three brothers last week in an apparent row over seats as they travelled home by train from New Delhi, killing him and injuring one of his brothers.

One brother said the attackers accused them of carrying beef, a meat popular among many Indian Muslims but shunned by most of the country's Hindus, who revere cows as sacred.

Deputy superintendent Mohinder Singh said police had arrested four men and identified the chief suspect in the killing, who had yet to be arrested.

Media reports said two of the men arrested were local government employees.

"We have also taken many eye witness accounts from the daily travellers on this route and are focusing on arresting the knife attacker," said Singh by telephone from Faridabad in northern Haryana state where the killing took place.

The news came a day after protests were held in several Indian cities over the recent killings under the slogan "not in my name".

Rights groups have also warned of a culture of impunity for crimes committed against Muslims - often on the pretext of protecting cows - and urged the country's Hindu nationalist government to act.

"The pattern of hate crimes committed against Muslims with seeming impunity... is deeply worrying," said Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India, in a statement this week.

The rights group said at least 10 Muslim men had been lynched or killed in public since April in suspected hate crimes.

Critics say vigilantes have been emboldened by the election in 2014 of Mr Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.

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.