'It Was Buffalo Meat. They Won't Listen,' Say Men Beaten in Maharashtra

Sheikh Bismillah and his uncle, residents of Maharashtra's Washim, had gone to sell buffalo meat when they were set upon by the group. The men beat them up, alleging they were selling cow meat

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'It Was Buffalo Meat. They Won't Listen,' Say Men Beaten in Maharashtra

The video from Maharashtra showed a group of men punching, kicking Sheikh Bismillah, a meat trader.

Mumbai:  Sheikh Bismillah, 27, still bears the bruises. Four days ago, he was seen in a cellphone video from Maharashtra, being mercilessly thrashed by a group of men. He and his uncle 65-year-old uncle Sheikh Siddique, were caught selling meat by the group, which alleged it was cow meat.

The men plied their trade in Maharashtra's Washim. Cow slaughter is banned in the state, but buffalo meat is allowed and brisk sale happens in the area, which is not too affluent.

On Friday, around 9.30 am, Mr Bismillah and his uncle had gone to sell meat when they were set upon by the group, they said. "I told them again and again that we were selling buffalo meat, but they didn't listen to us," said Mr Siddique. "We asked them to take us to the police station but they beat us first. They threatened to cut us into pieces," he said.

In the video, the assailants can be seen raining blows on Mr Bismillah. His uncle is seen sitting on the ground, next to a heap of meat. The assailants haul away the young man by his collar, and punch and kick him till he collapses.

The two were then taken to the police station, where the police filed cases all 9 men.

While the seven alleged cow vigilantes were accused of assault, Mr Siddiqui and his nephew were accused of acts intended to outrage religious feelings. The police sent samples of the meat for forensic test to determine if it was beef or buffalo meat. The results are yet to come in, said local police officer Mokshada Patil.

Ram Joshi, the man representing the alleged cow vigilates, called the entire incident a "conspiracy". "This is the fourth time beef was caught by the Washim police... One is forced to ask what exactly is happening," said Mr Joshi.

The sudden spurt in violence has made central ministers to speak up against cow vigilantism. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly criticized cow vigilantes, saying such people are "anti-social elements hiding behind the mask of gau rakshaks".

Recently, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari again drew the line between cow protection and vigilantism, saying the BJP and its ministers do not support "Whatever is happening in the name of gau raksha".

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