A court in Jharkhand on Wednesday sentenced to life the 11 people it had convicted on Friday for lynching a Muslim trader in June 2017, The Indian Express reported. The convicts, including a local Bharatiya Janata Party worker, beat the 55-year-old man to death in Ramgarh district on the suspicion of carrying beef in his van.
The fast-track court in Ramgarh had found the 11 guilty of murder and rioting, besides other charges. Defence lawyers had said they would challenge the conviction in the Jharkhand High Court.
At least three of the convicts are members of a local cow protection committee. They were convicted of criminal conspiracy in addition to the other charges.
The prosecution said this was possibly the first case of cow vigilantism in the country in which the accused had been convicted.
On June 29, Asgar Ansari’s vehicle was set on fire after the mob suspected that he was carrying beef. He was later beaten to death. The Centre had claimed there was no “religious angle” to Ansari’s murder and called it a “barbaric incident”.
The incident took place the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he disapproved of killings in the name of cow worship and that Mahatma Gandhi would have condemned such acts. “Killing people in the name of gau bhakti is not acceptable,” he had said.
The police arrested Nityanand Mahato, the BJP worker who was convicted, on July 1. They said the lynching had been planned, and was not a spontaneous attack. Mahto heads the party’s district media cell.