Mohammad Hasmat Ali, a Muslim man in India, was beaten to death by a mob of Hindus who accused him of stealing a cow, an animal that India’s majority Hindu population considers sacred.
In recent months, the protection of the animal has come to mean a great deal to an increasingly conservative India, where the ruling party — the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP — is known for a strong nationalist sentiment and includes several prominent politicians who have made comments that seem to condone the violence against non-Hindus who do not abstain from beef.
Ali, a school headmaster, is the fourth Muslim to be killed in the last six weeks for related accusations of the slaughter, theft, or consumption of cows — though there does not appear to be any evidence to suggest that he intended to steal a cow. Mohammed Ikhlaq, who was killed in October on suspicion of eating beef, only had mutton in his home at the time of his death.
Ali’s death comes just a few weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered members of his own party to stop condoning violence against those who eat beef. The same party, however, has fought for Indian states to ban beef consumption entirely, and has been linked to a number of vigilante groups that have resorted to violence in order to protect cows.