NEW DELHI — A 55-year-old man transporting cattle has died after being beaten by a mob of about 200 cow protection vigilantes in northern India, the police said on Wednesday.
The vigilantes, who are Hindu and consider cows sacred, surrounded six vehicles carrying cattle on a highway connecting Jaipur to New Delhi on Saturday and pulled out five men, apparently Muslims, and beat them, said Rahul Prakash, superintendent of the police in Alwar, a city about 30 miles from the site of the attack, in Behror.
One of the men, Pehlu Khan, died of his injuries on Tuesday. An official from Mr. Khan’s village said that he was transporting cows for use in a dairy. He denied they were being transferred for slaughter, which is illegal in Rajasthan, the state where the attack took place.
Video of the episode, which has circulated widely, showed men in white curled up on the roadside as they were kicked and whipped with belts and metal rods. The mob was so agitated that the police had to use force to disperse it, Mr. Prakash said.
Eleven men transporting the cattle were arrested and accused of smuggling the animals. None of the assailants in the cow protection group have been arrested, but a criminal case has been opened.
The top security official in Rajasthan sought on Wednesday to shift the blame from the cow protection group, saying the victims should not have been transporting cattle.
“There are two sides to this,” said the official, Gulab Chand Kataria, the home minister. “They know that one cannot smuggle cows out of Rajasthan. A law is in place.”
He also said that it was not a crime to intercept vehicles on suspicion of smuggling cows.
“Stopping is not a crime,” Mr. Kataria said. “But taking the law into your hands, that is a crime.”
Two criminal cases have been filed: one against Mr. Khan and his relatives, on charges of cow smuggling, and another targeting members of the cow protection group, who have been charged with murder.
Cows are considered sacred in Hinduism, and slaughtering them or transporting them out of state for slaughter is illegal in some states, including Rajasthan. However, it is legal to transport dairy cows with official permission.
Mohsin, the local leader in Jaisinghpur, the village in the northern state of Haryana where Mr. Khan and his relatives lived, said the family had received all the necessary permission to transport dairy cows from Jaipur to Jaisinghpur for sale. He said the vehicles would ordinarily have been stopped at a police checkpoint where the police would have checked the paperwork.
Instead, “the locals stopped Pehlu Khan’s vehicles at Behror and pulled them out,” said Mohsin, who like many Indians uses only one name. “The mob beat them ruthlessly and even robbed him of all his money.”
Cow protection groups, known as gau rakshak, have proliferated in recent years, since the Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power. These vigilante groups have carried out violent attacks on Muslims and, more rarely, low-caste Hindus suspected of slaughtering cows.
Sushmana Chaudhary, a constable in Behror, said some or all of the animals that Mr. Khan was transporting were dairy cows.