Union Minister Jayant Sinha with the men who killed a meat trader on suspicion of carrying beef
- Mr Sinha was seen meeting them at his home near Hazaribagh
- "This is despicable," Jharkhand's leader of opposition Hemant Soren said
- Mr Sinha's office said the minister did not want to comment
Jayant Sinha, the union minister from Jharkhand has landed himself in the middle of a row after the minister felicitated eight men convicted for killing a meat trader last year.
The controversy erupted after photographs emerged showing the minister welcoming them at his residence. In some, the union minister of state for civil aviation is also seen garlanding the eight convicts at his residence on the outskirts of Hazaribagh.
"This is despicable," Jharkhand's leader of opposition Hemant Soren tweeted in a stinging swipe at the union minister, tagging the minister's alma mater, the prestigious Harvard University of the US.
"Your alumnus @jayantsinha felicitating the accused in cow related lynching death in India. Is this what @Harvard stands for?" Mr Soren tweeted about Mr Sinha, the BJP's Lok Sabha member from Hazaribagh. Ramgarh town is also a part of his constituency.
Mr Sinha could not be reached for his comments despite attempts. His office said the minister did not want to comment at this stage.
A total of 11 men, including a local BJP leader, were sentenced to a life term for beating Alimuddin to death on 30 June last year.
The meat trader in Jharkhand was dragged out of his car and beaten to death by a mob that suspected he was carrying beef. As Alimuddin Ansari, 55, lay dying on a road in Ramgarh town, his car was also set on fire.
The deadly attack by the self-styled cow vigilantes had come just a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called "killing people in the name of cow protection unacceptable".
The Raghubar Das government in Jharkhand decided to send a strong message, ordered the police to quickly probe the case and sent it to a fast track court.
The court verdict came nine months later, in March this year.
They were convicted on the basis of a statement by Alimuddin's wife Mariam Khatoon.
The police also came across a video that it said showed Nityanand Mahto, 45, the district BJP's media in-charge dragging Alimuddin Ansari out of the car that a group of cow vigilantes had forced to stop near Ranchi. The mob took over from there and mercilessly thrashed him.
Ajoy Kumar of the Congress too expressed his shock at Mr Sinha, who he said was considered "among the most educated minister in PM Modi's cabinet, "openly" supporting people convicted for killing an innocent. "Do they have no work to show except playing politics on dead bodies and dividing society?" he said in an attack on the BJP.
This isn't the first time that Mr Sinha has been seen to be associating himself with the accused in this case.
After the court convicted the 11 people in March, Mr Sinha had demanded that the case be probed again. This time, by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
He had then claimed to have studied "various facets" of the case and held consultations. "I firmly believe that complete justice has not been done," the BJP's Lok Sabha member from Hazaribagh had said. Ramgarh town, where the incident took place, is part of his Lok Sabha constituency.