NEW DELHI (AFP) - The head of India's ruling Hindu nationalists has reprimanded some of the party's senior figures for their controversial reaction to the lynching of a Muslim accused of eating beef, reports said Monday.
Amit Shah, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, imposed a "gag order" on the officials following accusations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had failed to distance himself from their comments, the reports said.
The group included the chief minister of the northern state of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, who was quoted last week as saying that India's minority Muslims should stop eating beef out of respect to Hindus.
Another of those to be slapped down was the lawmaker Sakshi Maharaj who recently demanded the introduction of a new law with a provision for death penalty against anyone who slaughters cows - considered sacred by Hindus.
The Hindu newspaper said that the "motormouths" had been ordered "to stop making controversial remarks" while The Indian Express said Modi himself had been annoyed that the backlash over their comments was proving a distraction in the ongoing elections in the state of Bihar.
While it is not illegal to eat beef in India, cow slaughter is illegal in a number of states and the issue has become a hot topic since Modi's party won a landslide general election victory last year.
The murder last month of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was dragged from his home near Delhi and beaten to death over unsubstantiated rumours he had eaten beef, has fuelled accusations the BJP is failing to protect minorities.
And while Modi did eventually condemn the lynching as "unfortunate", many commentators pointed out that it took the prime minister - who is a prolific user of Twitter - several weeks to respond to the murder.