India: 2 Killed In Suspected Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

Two Muslims -- an adult man and a 13-year-old boy -- may have been killed because of their faith by Hindu fundamentalists in eastern India, according to a Turkish press agency.

The victims, cattle herders Mazlum Ansari, 32, and 13-year-old Azad Khan, were found hanging from a tree on March 18, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu Ajansi. The news agency said Ansari and Khan left home early that morning and were headed for a cattle fair in a neighboring district.

Authorities said they're looking into accusations that the killings were religiously motivated by militant Hindus, who have attacked other Muslims in the country of 1.2 billion people after accusations that the victims ate beef. Cows are revered animals in Hindu tradition.

"The manner of the hanging showed the killers were motivated by extreme hatred," Latehar Police Superintendent Anoop Birthary said, per Anadolu Ajansi.

In September, a Muslim man was accused of eating beef and was lynched by Hindu fundamentalists in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the report said. Earlier in March, four Kashmiri students were beaten by a Hindu mob and arrested on accusations that they'd eaten beef in their dorm room.

In the former case, an autopsy revealed the murdered Muslim man had not eaten beef, and the Kashmiri students were released after tests showed they hadn't eaten beef, either.

The Anadolu Ajansi report notes fundamentalist Hindus have become emboldened by the election of right-wing Hindu nationalists. Since their rise to power, "groups of radical Hindu nationalists have been terrorizing religious minorities across the country," an al Jazeera story from October 2015 reported.

Critics say the violence can be traced back to the 2014 election of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi as India's prime minister. Armed nationalists have taken to the streets, using violence to advocate for a "purely Hindu India," the Al Jazeera story said.

"The victory of Narendra Modi in the general elections has propelled a number of true believers of Hindutva into positions of unprecedented influence," said Shashi Tharoor, a former foreign minister and member of parliament, according to USA Today.

Authorities said Ansari and Khan, the victims of the March 18 attack, were left hanging with their heads covered in towels in an area where Hindus and Muslims have clashed before. An investigation is ongoing.

Sources: Anadolu Anjansi, USA Today, al Jazeera / Photo credit: al Jazeera

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