Mob kills man, 50, in India after rumours swirl that his family stored, consumed beef at home

A butcher cuts meat for a customer inside his shop in Mumbai, India on Sept 8, 2015.
A butcher cuts meat for a customer inside his shop in Mumbai, India on Sept 8, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The Indian police said on Wednesday (Sept 30) they had arrested six people after a 50-year-old Muslim man was beaten to death over rumours he had eaten beef, a taboo in the Hindu-majority nation.

Mr Mohammad Akhlaq was dragged from his house on the outskirts of the capital and attacked by around 100 people on Monday night, a police officer told AFP.

"When our team reached the spot a crowd was there outside his house. They (police) managed to rescue him and take him to the hospital, but his life could not be saved," said senior police superintendent Kiran S.

"We have arrested six people and deployed additional personnel to contain any further repercussions."

Mr Akhlaq's 22-year-old son was also seriously injured in the attack and was in intensive care at a nearby hospital.

The rumours that the family had eaten been began when a calf was reported missing in Dadri village, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 35km from New Delhi.

"An announcement about the family consuming beef was made at a temple, after which the mob descended on the man's house," said Mr Kiran.

"Some locals spread rumours that Akhlaq had cow meat at his home and engaged in cow slaughter. Following the rumours, they attacked his home," the BBC quoted senior local official N. P. Singh as telling the Indian Express newspaper.

"We found out that the people beat them because they consumed cow meat. More people will be arrested," said NDTV quoted Mr Kiran as saying.

The police are investigating the rumour.

The Indian Express quoted Mr Akhlaq's daughter Sajida, 18, as saying the family had mutton in the fridge and not beef.

"They accused us of keeping cow meat, broke down our doors and started beating my father and brother. My father was dragged outside and beaten with bricks," she told the daily.

The villagers also trashed their house and even attacked the female family members, India's NDTV broadcaster reported.

"My husband was bleeding. His head was smashed. They beat the family... my husband had no enemies...," Mr Akhlaq's wife was quoted by NDTV as saying.

The meat has been sent for forensic testing, the police said, according to NDTV.

The cow is considered a sacred animal, and killing cows is banned in many states of India, a majority-Hindu country that also has sizeable Muslim, Christian and Buddhist minorities.

In March, the state of Maharashtra toughened its ban to make even possessing beef illegal, a move seen by religious minorities as a sign of the growing power of hardline Hindus since nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.