Two men were lynched allegedly over suspicion of cattle theft in Coochbehar district of West Bengal on Thursday, PTI reported. Thirteen people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the incident, said the police.
The incident took place in Mathabhanga area when Babul Mitra and Prakash Das were ferrying two cows in a van. A mob of around 20 people stopped the pick-up van, which did not have a number plate, reported The Indian Express. “They pulled them out and beat them with sticks and stones before torching the vehicle,” an unidentified police officer told the newspaper. “The mob dispersed when police reached the spot.”
The mob accused the two of stealing the cows and taking them to cattle smugglers. The police said they had yet to ascertain if the cows were actually stolen.
Mitra and Das were admitted to a hospital but they succumbed to their injuries.
The accused have been arrested on charges of murder, and more charges were likely to be added, said Coochbehar Superintendent of Police Santosh Nimbalkar. He added that raids were underway to identify others involved in the incident.
The West Bengal Assembly passed an anti-lynching bill on August 30 after a string of lynchings, many of which were connected with the transport of cattle or rumours of child-lifting, were reported from the state. The bill is yet to be approved by the governor.
The West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019, proposes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and fines ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh for offences. It defines lynching as any attempt or act of violence by a mob on the “grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, language, dietary practices, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity, or any other ground”.