Nahan: Cattle, injured and immobile, policemen deployed to protect them and a smashed truck mark the spot near Nahan in Himachal Pradesh, where 28-year-old Noman was beaten to death by a mob on Wednesday.
Four of Noman's associates, who were also beaten and are seriously injured, have been arrested for allegedly smuggling cattle. No one, however, has been arrested yet for the brutal attack which led to Noman's death. "We have identified those who lynched, they are all youngsters and come from this area," Deputy Superintendent of Police Yohesh Rolte said.
The incident comes within weeks of a similar attack on in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri. Mohammad Akhlaq, 52, was dragged out of his home by a mob and beaten to death after announcements were made at a local temple about a calf being killed.
Baldev Bhandari, a local BJP leader, told NDTV, "I know the boys since they were children. They are religious with no complaints against them ever. I have asked their parents to ask them to surrender."
According to him, the administration is to blame for the attack because they allegedly sought help from the villagers to trace Noman and his associates who had run into the forest after their truck was stopped.
Officials say the Nahan-Shimla Highway that connects Punjab to Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is often used for cattle smuggling.
"In the past we have had cases of cattle smuggling cattle here," Deputy Superintendent of Police, Yohesh Rolte said.
"Thousands of cattle are smuggled every day and it isn't new," Sadananad Chauhan, a former lawmaker from Nahan and a member of the Lok Jan Shakti party said. "Smugglers hire poor and unemployed for as little as Rs 2,000 to transport these cattle."
But the District of Sirmour, of which Nahan is a part, has seen never such vigilantism before, locals say. "Never ever have the two communities fought. Not even during the partition," Hajj Naseer Husain, who runs a poultry business, said. "But times are changing," he added.
There are no clear answers yet to what prompted the lynching or who was behind it. But whether by design or accident, from Dadri to Nahan, the pattern is similar as are key players - vigilante armies that have suddenly emerged, attacking people all in the name of cow protection.