Screenshots from video of the attack. Photo: Social media

New Delhi: A Muslim man was attacked by a group in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district on Sunday (May 23). The group was led by a man calling himself a gau rakshak (cow protector), NDTV reported.

While the police have filed a case against the violent group based on a complaint from the victim’s relative, the TV channel reported that another FIR – which they police have filed of their own volition – names the victim himself as the accused.

The case against Mohammed Shakir, who is in the business of transporting and selling meat, has been filed under sections on ‘mischief by killing an animal’, ‘committing an act likely to spread infection’ and ‘violation of COVID-19 lockdown guidelines’.

A police official told NDTV that Shakir had been arrested but is not in jail as the charges against him are bailable. According to his family, Shakir is recovering from the assault at home.

Manoj Thakur, who led the group that assaulted Shakir and hit him with a stick several time, claims to be the vice president of the Bharatiya Gauraksha Vahini, The Quint reported. Thakur too is not in police custody. Five other have been named in the FIR alongside Thakur – Pradeep, Babu, Gulshan alias Gully, Sumit and Vijay – and it also mentions four-five other unnamed persons, according to The Quint. Four of these people have been arrested while others are on the run, NDTV quoted the police as saying.

A video of the incident has gone viral on social media. The group reportedly stopped Shakir, who was reportedly transporting buffalo meat on a scooter, and demanded Rs 50,000 from him. In the video, Shakir is surrounded by Thakur and others, and hit with a stick as he falls to the ground.

Thakur issued a statement to some local journalists, NDTV reported. “We tried to stop this man but he hit us with his vehicle. Using two lathis to hit a man is a crime but trying to kill someone isn’t? I am trying to stop cow slaughter but the police are now threatening me. Let the administration give me a police team… I will expose this racket,” he said.

The Bharatiya Gauraksha Vahini has claimed that Thakur is no longer associated with the group and was removed from the organisation six months ago.“Manoj Thakur was thrown out of the Bharatiya Gauraksha Vahini six months ago for engaging in problematic activities. There were several allegations against him of taking money from people. Our local Sangh representatives in Moradabad also told us about this. It seems like now we will have to put out a separate press release saying he is not in the party to avoid further confusion. We keep telling him but he does not listen,” Rakesh Singh Parihar, national president of the Vahini, told The Quint.

The violent incident – one of many against people, particularly Muslims, working in the meat or cattle industry in recent years – has created outrage. Samajwadi Party MP from Moradabad S.T. Hasan has demanded action against Thakur and other accused. “I heard he got the meat from a factory and had a receipt. Yet he was assaulted. I want to say that this hatred in the name of cow slaughter has to stop. It is God’s grace this man was not killed,” Hasan said in a statement.

This is also not the first time that the police has registered two FIRs instead of one in a case of this kind. Victims of ‘cow vigilante’ groups often find themselves being accused of crimes instead of supported by the police.

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