Bulandshahr: Why a policeman was killed over 'cow slaughter' - Whisper Eye

Bulandshahr: Why a policeman was killed over ‘cow slaughter’

A police officer in northern India was killed trying to calm a mob angered by reports that cows, regarded by Hindus as holy, had been slaughtered in the area. BBC Hindi’s Nitin Srivastava reports from Bulandshahr in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the incident happened.

It was sometime after 10:00 local time (04:30 GMT) on Monday when Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh sat in his official vehicle and asked the driver to make the SUV “fly”. The driver, Ram Asrey, drove as fast as he could.

Mr Singh, 47, was in charge of the police station in Siyana, a village in Bulandshahr. He had received a call that morning asking him to go to a police station in another village, Chigrawati, about 5km (3 miles) away, where an angry mob of villagers had gathered. They alleged that they had found carcasses of cows earlier that day in the fields – videos, which soon began circulating on WhatsApp and social media, show a tractor with several carcasses blocking the road leading to the police station.

Cows, which are considered holy by India’s majority Hindu population, have become a flashpoint in India in recent years.

Many states, including Uttar Pradesh, have started enforcing bans on cow slaughter since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

So-called cow vigilantism has been on the rise and has led to several killings in the past few years. But an attack on police is unheard of.

An 18-year-old protester was also killed in the violence. Police have arrested four people over Inspector Singh’s killing and are looking for 23 others.

The mob in Chigrawati, according to eyewitnesses and police officers, quickly grew to include more than 300 people as those from nearby villages also joined in. They were demanding the police take immediate action to find out who was responsible for the alleged slaughter of cows.

And the six officers inside the police station had started frantically calling the district headquarters. It’s unclear if they called Mr Singh directly or if he was ordered to go there as part of reinforcements.

When Mr Singh arrived, he approached the mob, hoping to pacify them. Eyewitnesses told the BBC that, unlike some of the other policemen, Mr Singh was not wearing a bulletproof jacket and did not have his pistol in his hand.

The police wanted to calm the villagers down because thousands of Muslims had gathered over the weekend in Bulandshahr for a religious event. So officials feared the mob’s anger could spiral and lead to religious rioting.

But, eyewitnesses say, the villagers only got angrier and more aggressive even as more police officers began to arrive.

It’s unclear when the violence broke out but one eyewitness, a man who works in a school near the police station, told the BBC that he could hear the two sides fighting for more than a half hour and gunshots rang out at regular intervals. He says he locked himself in the school’s bathroom.