NEW DELHI -- Eight months after a Muslim ironsmith in Bisada village was beaten to death by a mob alleging that he had slaughtered a calf and eaten it, residents of the village in western Uttar Pradesh are now demanding that his family be arrested within 20 days for consuming beef.
Tensions have escalated in Bisada village, located in Dadri tehsil around 60 kilometers from Delhi, after a key finding of a forensic laboratory in Mathura was made public, last week. While the family members of Mohammad Akhlaq have insisted they had cooked mutton on the tragic night of September 28, the laboratory found that the meat in question belonged to "cow or its progeny."
While nothing justifies the murder a man by an enraged mob, least of all what he chooses to eat, family members of at least 18 persons arrested for Akhlaq's murder view the latest "cow and its progeny" finding as way to get their relatives off the hook or at least get a lighter sentence.
Eating buffalo meat is allowed in Uttar Pradesh, but cow slaughter is punishable with seven years in prison and a fine of Rs.10,000.
The police have arrested 18 people including two minors for Akhlaq's murder.
The finding of the Mathura laboratory was made public six months after the preliminary report of the U.P. Veterinary Department found the meat samples to be mutton.
Despite a order prohibiting large gatherings, around 50 villagers gathered inside a temple in Bisada village, and called on the local administration to arrest Akhlaq's family members within 20 days.
The villagers said that they would not be able to contain "public anger" if the arrests were not made within 20 days, The Indian Express reported.
“The issue of cow is an issue of our faith. We are peace-loving and we believe in the justice system. However, in 20 days, the government should look at all alternatives and listen to our demands. Otherwise, the capacity to contain this public anger might not exist in my village,” Sanjay Rana, father of one man arrested for Akhlaq's murder and uncle to another accused in the case, told the newspaper.
Reports from the ground also suggest that those raging against Akhlaq's family are mostly relatives of the men arrested for his murder. The Indian Express reported that families of 18 accused persons attended the meeting on Monday night in Bisada village.
The Hindustan Times reported that they demanded the arrest of Akhlaq's family members and the release of their own relatives.
“If innocent children are not given fair treatment, we will organise a mahapanchayat, even immolate ourselves," Pratap Singh Sisodia, a former village chief, told the newspaper.
Members of Shiv Sena, a right-wing political party based in Maharashtra, also attended the meeting in Dadri village.
“It’s a failure of law and order. The police don’t listen to Hindus. If a person has slaughtered a cow, he or she should be put behind the bars. Law should be the same for everyone,” Mahesh Kumar Ahuja, a Sena leader from Ghaziabad, told the Hindustan Times.
Families of the accused men and Shiv Sena leaders have also alleged bias on the part of the Samajwadi Party-run government in U.P.
“I want to ask the Chief Minister, don’t Hindus vote for him and his government? Do only Muslims vote for them? Our children are in jail because a man died. This report made it clear that the man had killed a cow. Why should a case not be registered? Why shouldn’t his family be in jail when our children are in jail? Why are you saving the guilty?," Mahesh Kumar Ahuja, a Shiv Sena leader, told The Indian Express.
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