The charred vehicles which were set on fire by a mob in Monday’s violent clashes over the alleged illegal slaughter of cattle, in Bulandshahr. (Source: PTI)

Indian Cop Killed by ‘Cow Vigilantes’ as Hindu Nationalists Riot

(Bloomberg) -- A violent protest by Hindu nationalists over cow deaths in India’s most populous state has led to the murder of a police officer in an incident that could have broader political impact ahead of India’s election next year.

Police officer Subodh Singh was shot dead in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh while responding to a mob that torched vehicles after the discovery of a number of cow carcasses, according to government statements. Cows are considered sacred by India’s majority Hindu population.

Indian Cop Killed by ‘Cow Vigilantes’ as Hindu Nationalists Riot

The Hindu nationalist affiliation of the alleged assailants, as well as the response of the chief minister, have prompted criticism of India’s ruling party in the key province with a population of 200 million.

Cow Vigilantes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, and appointed the firebrand Hindu priest Yogi Adityanath as the new chief minister, a move viewed as boosting the party’s reputation among Hindu nationalists.

Adityanath’s administration launched raids on the state’s Muslim-run slaughterhouses, who also complained of being harassed by Hindu radical "cow vigilantes."

In response to violence in the city of Bulandshahr, roughly 62 miles from the capital New Delhi, Adityanath pledged action over the murdered officer and promised compensation to his family. But in a later statement, his government mentioned only the deaths of the cows -- an emotive issue that animates Hindu nationalists -- and not the slain officer.

“All those involved in cow slaughter, directly or indirectly, should be arrested in a time-bound manner,” Adityanath said, according to the statement.

Adityanath matters because he holds a prominent place in the ruling party and frequently campaigns on behalf of Modi in other Indian states. The focus on cows has prompted allegations that the ruling party allows Hindu fringe groups to operate above the law.

At Large

"If in Modi-Yogi rule, police is in such a state, then how terrified would the common man be?" said opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Twitter.

Calls made to two BJP spokesmen in Uttar Pradesh were not immediately returned. Modi’s spokesman Jagdish Thakkar did not respond to a call and text for comment.

Yogesh Raj, the man alleged to have killed the police officer, originally filed a police report seeking action over the dead cows. He’s a member of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of a prominent Hindu nationalist organization linked to the BJP.

Although four people have been arrested over the violence, according to the Uttar Pradesh police, media reports said Raj remains at large.

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