- 3 men, beaten up last night, have now been arrested
- Police and activists allege the arrested men were cruel to buffaloes
- Activists claimed to be from Maneka Gandhi's People For Animals group
Calling the men's injuries minor, the police denied any involvement of cow vigilantes. "The PFA has been working against animal cruelty in Delhi for a long time. They are not 'gau rakshaks' (cow protectors)," said senior police officer, Ramil Baniya.
The men, the police said, said they had been cruel to the buffaloes they were taking for slaughter from Haryana's Gurgaon to Ghazipur Mandi in Ghaziabad. Fourteen buffaloes were found in the seized truck, in place of the five or six that can reasonably be carried. "The buffaloes were in bad shape," an officer said.
The activists involved in the late-night drama denied beating up the men. "We had information regarding inhumane transportation (of the buffaloes) and followed the truck... Then we called the police," said Gaurav Gupta, who claimed to be a member of People for Animals, a non-profit headed by Union Minister Maneka Gandhi. The Minister's office, though, has denied any involvement in the issue.
NDTV, which reached the spot after the attack last night, had seen a huge group of men, one of whom claimed the transporters were taking cattle for slaughter. Another man wearing tilak, who identified himself as Mohit, said they were following the truck from Haryana.
Cow slaughter is illegal in most parts of India. Uttar Pradesh government's recent crackdown on illegal abattoirs, where buffaloes are slaughtered mostly for export, has brought fresh attention to the issue.
Cow vigilantism hit the headlines after a number of people were targeted across India over allegations of cow slaughter and beef consumption. In July last year, four Dalit men were stripped, tied to a car and flogged in Gujarat.
A month later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi severely criticized such activities, saying it is usually perpetrated by anti-social elements.
"I get so angry at those who are into the Gau-Rakshak business. A Gau-Bhakt (cow devotee) is different, Gau Seva (cow protection) is different. I have seen that some people are into crimes all night and wear the garb of gau rakshaks in the day," PM Modi said in August.