COOCH BEHAR/KOLKATA: Two persons were lynched over suspicion of cattle theft at Cooch Behar district in the wee hours of Thursday. The victims, Prakash Das(35) and Rabiul Islam (40) were beaten up with rods, sticks and bricks for over an hour by a section of local residents, said police.

The police arrested 14 persons for their alleged involvement in the lynching.

“It was around 1 am on Thursday when some local residents spotted a matador van without a registration number plate roaming at Kedarhat area. They intercepted the vehicle and found a cow inside. Suspecting Prakash and Rabiul of theft, they dragged them out and started beating up the duo,’’ said a police officer.

On hearing the assault, police rushed to the spot and took the two to Cooch Behar Medical College and Hospital where doctors declared them dead.

Police rounded up 15 persons from the area and later arrested 13 of them.

Preliminary investigation by the local police revealed both Prakash and Rabiul were arrested on the charges of stealing cows before.

“The area is near the Cooch Behar—Bangladesh border and cattle smuggler use the region,’’ said the police officer.

In an attempt to stop incidents of lynching, the state government passed the West Bengal (Prevention of Lynching) Bill, 2019, two months ago which is awaiting governor assent. The new Bill prescribes death sentence as maximum quantum of punishment.

Governor Jagdeep Dankar sought an explanation from the state government after the leader of the Oppositions and Left Front raised objection alleging that the draft of the Bill that was distributed among the legislators in the Assembly prescribed life imprisonment as maximum quantum of punishment but it was changed to capital punishment when the Bill was tabled and passed.

This story first appeared on newindianexpress.com