Five men found clubbed to death for skinning a cow

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The Independent Online

In an agricultural town an hour's drive past the swamps and ruddy-soiled fields west of Delhi, a corpse has been laid out with care and reverence. It is being examined, to find out how and – crucially – when it died. Five men were beaten to death on Tuesday because of this body. It is a cow.

In an agricultural town an hour's drive past the swamps and ruddy-soiled fields west of Delhi, a corpse has been laid out with care and reverence. It is being examined, to find out how and – crucially – when it died. Five men were beaten to death on Tuesday because of this body. It is a cow.

The post-mortem examination, at a veterinary clinic in Jhajjar, will not throw any light on who killed the men. They were beaten to death with hoes and bricks on the doorstep of a police outpost, a few yards from some 70 policemen and a senior municipal administrator. Yesterday, the police had yet to make a single arrest.

The autopsy on the cow is to clarify whether the dead men killed the animal – considered sacred by Hindus – for the purpose of skinning it, or whether it was already dead. Some local people say the men made a living from selling cow hides, but only used animals that had expired.

The lynch mob was convinced the five men killed the animal, committing a terrible sacrilege and a crime under India's Cow Slaughter Act.

Blood still stains the road where the men – Virender Singh, Tofa Ram, Raji Ram, Dayanard Ram and Kailash Baljit – were beaten to death in the village of Dulena.

Two of the witnesses, both senior local officials, gave their version of events."The crowd was just impossible to control," said Deputy Superintendent Narendra Singh, adding that a team of 40 police was trying to track the killers.

R P Singh, a magistrate from Jhajjar, said the men had been discovered skinning the cow. A crowd took them to the police post where the five were locked up. But it was a Hindu holiday and before long, he said, a frenzied mob of several thousand had gathered, chanting "Gau mata ki jai" – "Long live the mother cow". They broke into the men's cell and lynched them.

He said the police, who were unarmed, were hopelessly outnumbered.

Remorse was not much in evidence in the neighbourhood. "Killing a cow is like killing a person," said one man, a tree-cutter. "If you do it, you deserve to die."

On Wednesday, protesters demonstrated in a nearby town, not against the murders, but the killing of the cow.

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