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India: Alleged cow killing aimed at stoking religious tension?

NEW DELHI: Police in India are investigating whether a protest over the alleged slaughter of a cow, an animal many Hindus consider sacred, was aimed at sparking religious tension during a Muslim gathering.

Monday's violence in the country's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, which killed two people, brings back to the spotlight a trend of cow vigilantism by hardline Hindu groups ahead of a general election due in less than six months.

Police have arrested four of 27 men after a police officer and a man were killed in the northern state's district of Bulandshahr as tens of thousands of Muslims gathered for a religious event.

Police would try to determine the age of the cow carcass, a police official said when asked if there had been a conspiracy by using a dead cow brought in from elsewhere.

"If there was anything like that, then the details will come out," Mr Anand Kumar, the state's second highest police official, told a news conference.

The Muslim religious event ended peacefully and the situation had returned to normal, he added.

Last year, a Reuters report showed that cow vigilantism flourished during the first three years of the term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, run by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Mr Bhola Singh, the BJP lawmaker from the district, told reporters the protests escalated because people were agitated over two cows slaughtered recently.

The dead police officer had led an investigation into the 2015 murder by a Hindu mob of a Muslim man rumoured to have slaughtered a cow in a village that is about an hour away from the district. - REUTERS

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