The Current

Tensions high in India after three men murdered over eating beef

A Muslim man in India was attacked and killed on suspicion of eating beef. Difficult to believe... but true. His case is part of a trend of violence, and some say, intolerance against India's minorities. What's causing even more outrage is a sense the government is doing little to step in.
Demonstrators protest against the killing of Mohammed Akhlaq, in Mumbai, India, October 6, 2015. The murder by a Hindu mob of Akhlaq, a Muslim man rumoured to have slaughtered a cow, has thrown a spotlight on the polarising agenda of some followers of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade )

Local Muslims have been protesting the death of one of their own on the streets of southern India. A farmer, named Mohammad Akhlaq, was killed because of rumours that his family had eaten beef. And as shocking as that may seem, lynchings related to Muslims eating beef have been on the rise in India.

Just this week, an inquiry into Mohammad Akhlaq's death concluded that the Hindu mob that killed him was a premeditated attack.

The cow, of course, is considered a sacred animal to many Hindus, who make up 80% of India's 1.2 billion people. And cattle slaughter has long been a sensitive subject.

Relatives of Mohammad Akhlaq mourn after he was killed by a mob, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, September 29, 2015. A Hindu mob killed a Muslim man in India over rumours that he butchered a cow and ate beef. (REUTERS/Stringer )

But recent deaths like this one have ratcheted up fears of a renewed cycle of violence between Hindus and Muslims.... and fears for India's future as a secular state. Especially since Narendra Modi and his Hindu Nationalists won big in national elections last year.

Shoaib Daniyal is a reporter for the online news magazine Scroll India. We reached her in Delhi.

The death of Mohammad Akhlaq is just the latest recent attack on minorities inside India. Earlier this year, two Indian intellectuals were attacked and killed because their writing contravened the beliefs of Hindu fundamentalists. 

Writer and Poet, Ashok Vajpeyi returned his Sahitya Akademi award to protest India's intolerance. (CBC)
 And in response to what they see as a growing culture of intolerance, some of India's most celebrated writers and intellectuals are launching a powerful protest. They're returning literary awards given to them by the government's Indian National Academy of Letters - also known as the Sahitya Akademi.     

So far more than 25 writers have returned their awards. Ashok Vajpeyi is among them. He is a renowned Hindi writer and poet. He served as chair of India's National Academy of Arts from 2008 to 2011. He is in Toronto to raise concerns about the crackdown on the freedom of expression in India.  ​

Not everyone agrees the government of Narendra Modi bears blame for its response to the killing of Mohammed Akhlaq. Shiv Bhasker is with the Canadian branch of the Overseas Friends of the BJP...the BJP being Narendra Modi's political party. He is president of its Ottawa chapter.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Marc Apollonio.