A day after two Muslim cattle traders were found hanged to death in Latehar district of Jharkhand, five suspects were arrested on Saturday, including a person associated with a local cow protection vigilante group.
The police identified the arrested as Mithilesh Prasad Sahu alias Bunty, Pramod Kumar Sahu, Manoj Kumar Sahu, Awadhesh Sahu and Manoj Sahu. Efforts are under way to nab three others also said to be involved in the murders. The death sparked protests in the area on Friday.
However, Latehar district police chief Anoop Birthare said in Ranchi that “No direct involvement of any cow protection vigilante group in the killings has surfaced so far…but, some people are trying to spread rumours to vitiate the social harmony.”
Jharkhand murders not linked to cow protection group: police
The police officials also said that prima facie, the incident appeared to be a case of loot and murder. “The arrested persons have said they wanted to loot cattle and the cash from the traders.” The two cattle-traders were said to be herding altogether eight buffaloes to the local market “and selling them was expected to fetch few lakhs rupees to them,” said the police official. The police have recovered six buffaloes, four from the nearby forest area, so far.
Earlier on Friday bodies of two Muslim cattle traders — Mazlum Ansari (32) and Imteyaz Khan (15) were found hanging from a tree. The victims were said to be residents of Balumath area of the district, some 23 kms from district headquarters, Latehar. According to villagers, there were communal clashes over beef eating in the area three months ago.
In 2005, the BJP government under Chief Minister Arjun Munda had brought in an ordinance for the prevention of the cow slaughter in Jharkhand which, later, became an act, imposing a Rs 5,000 penalty and imprisonment of upto five years or both for offenders.
Meanwhile, the incident triggered a political storm in the State with the Opposition Congress and Left parties holding the BJP government, both at the Centre and the State, responsible for the incident to stoke communal tension and polarise votes ahead of Assembly elections in five States.