A Muslim beef trader from Mumbai has been granted refugee status in Canada as the country’s Immigration and Refugee Board noted that the man had a “subjective fear of persecution in India as a Muslim” and as someone involved in the industry in India, Mumbai Mirror reported on Wednesday.

The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, worked in his family’s meat business since 1998. In 2014, he was attacked by 10 unknown people, allegedly belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The trader’s home was also attacked a few days after the incident.

In his application to the country, the man said that local police officers had ignored his complaint, and attempts for a legal recourse was in vain. The man also claimed that his attempt to set up shop in Maharashtra’s Pune city failed as he faced threats from Hindutva groups. Maharashtra’s ban on beef was put in place in 2015 – the year the man moved to France. Following this, he shifted to Canada in 2016.

The Refugee Protection Division – the tribunal branch of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board – first rejected his refugee application in January 2017 due to irregularities in the evidence submitted by him. The authorities had then said that he was unable to prove the risk of harm in India.

In September 2018, the Refugee Appeal Division took up his claim, and asked the trader whether he could move to other cities in India to escape the threats. As a counter, reports in Indian and international media on the rise in cow vigilantism, and a prevailing sense of insecurity among meat traders were submitted. The judgement by the Immigration and Refugee Board was passed on November 26, 2018.

“The documentation before the RAD shows that since the BJP party rose to power in India in 2014, cow vigilante groups have become more active and that their actions appear to be tacitly, and even openly, condoned by the government and by police,” the Canadian board noted. It highlighted a United States State Department report for 2017 that showed there had been a 75% increase in cow vigilante attacks since 2016.

“The same report states that police in India were known to file charges against the victims of assaults by cow vigilante groups under cow protection legislation rather than charging those who had assaulted them, information that was confirmed by several other documents,” the board said.

The authorities took note of the documentation and said that members of the Muslim community were “disproportionately targeted by cow vigilante groups” and often wrongly suspect that they are involved in the beef slaughter industry. The board said that even consumption of beef can put a person’s life at risk of “violent retribution by these radical Hindu nationalist groups”, adding that authorities are often unwilling to protect those who are targeted.

The appellant submitted 22 documents as evidence in support of his case, including Scroll.in’s June 2017 report on how North India’s beef hysteria had destroyed West Bengal’s cattle trade.

“...the general climate in India for Muslims and those involved or suspected of being involved in beef slaughter has significantly deteriorated since the [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi and the BJP rose to power, and that violence and other forms of discrimination against these groups are increasing steadily,” the board noted. It also said that penalties had “increased since Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power”.

This judgement could trigger a flurry of asylum applications that cite threat from cow vigilantes and Hindutva groups. Until recently, the largest number of applications from Indians in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States were from members of the Sikh community following the 1984 riots.