Indian police say they have arrested one person and are searching for a dozen others over the torture of a Muslim man who later died of his wounds, in the latest suspected lynching in the country by Hindu vigilantes.
A 10-minute video shows Tabrez Ansari, 24, being beaten by a group of men last week over accusations he had carried out a burglary in Kharsawan district, in Jharkhand state.
Tied to a pole, Ansari is also forced to shout “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram), a slogan used by Hindus, according to the footage, which has gone viral.
Kartik S, a local police chief, told the AFP news agency that the villagers beat Ansari for nearly 12 hours, before he was taken into custody and then hospital. He died in hospital of his injuries on Saturday, four days after he was attacked.
“We have arrested the main accused for the murder, but a dozen people from the mob are on the run,” the police chief said.
“An environment has been created across the country that enables and encourages this kind of violence,” said Harsh Mander, a founding member of Karwan-e-Mohabbat (“a caravan of love”), a solidarity campaign for victims hit by hate violence, including lynchings.
“For perpetrators, such attacks are an act of heroism. Ansari was not only lynched by a mob, there was an obvious religious hatred in the manner it was done by asking him to shout Hindu slogans,” he told Al Jazeera.
Commenting on reports that police registered a case against Ansari after he was handed over to authorities, Mander said: “It is a pattern by the police; they tend to register cases against the victim [first] rather than the accused. There is a bias which is always been legitimised, by police.”
On Monday, India rejected a US State Department report that said religious intolerance and violence has increased against minorities in India under the government of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The US religious freedom report stated that there had been growing numbers of attacks by Hindus claiming to protect cows – which is considered sacred by Hindus – since 2014 when Modi came to power.
After the attack on Ansari, Jharkhand Minister CP Singh, said in a press conference on Monday that such incidents should not be politicised and linked to BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu supremacist organisation that wants India to be defined as a Hindu nation.
“The government will conduct an investigation. The trend to politicise such incidents is wrong,” Singh was quoted as saying by local media group NDTV.
Earlier this month, Modi condemned a rise in mob attacks saying: “Killing people in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ (cow worship) is not acceptable. No person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands. in his rare comments on the cases.”
Dozens of Muslims have been killed by Hindu groups in the past five years over allegations that they had slaughtered cows or eaten beef.