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Five held after two Muslim cowherds hanged to death in India

NEW DELHI, March 19 (Reuters) - Police have arrested five
suspects in the hanging to death of two Muslims herding cattle
in India, in an incident that led to violent protests sparked an
outbreak of violence in the eastern state of Jharkhand amid
reports the attackers were Hindu vigilantes.

India is the world's largest exporter of beef and its fifth
biggest consumer, but the killing of cows is forbidden in some
regions, including in the state of Jharkhand, as many Hindus
regard the animal as sacred.

The bodies of the two cattle traders were found hanging from
a tree in Jharkhand's Latehar district on Friday, stoking
violence that injured six policemen, the Hindustan Times
reported on Saturday.

Mazlum Ansari, 32, and Imteyaz Khan, the 13-year-old son of
another cattle trader, were residents of Balumath, 110 km (70
miles) from Ranchi, it said. The area saw clashes between Hindus
and Muslims over the eating of beef three months ago.

"Police have arrested five persons and are looking for
others involved in the incident," Latehar police chief Anoop
Birtharay said by telephone.

"So far we have not found any affiliation of these persons
with any Hindu radical group. We are still examining," he said.

Opponents have accused Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
of seeking to stoke religious tensions in order to polarise
voters ahead of crucial state assembly elections in five states
in next two months.

"This horrible incident is a result of the sustained
communal campaign conducted by the Hindutva outfits," a
statement issued by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said.

Despite protests by the local people, the police and the BJP
state government in Jharkhand have failed to protect minorities
engaged in this trade, the CPI(M) statement said.

A BJP state leader in Jharkhand condemned the killings.
"This is an unfortunate incident. Our government will take
strong action against the culprits," said Ashok Kumar, secretary
of the BJP's Jharkhand unit.

Attacks on cattle traders, who are typically from the Muslim
minority that makes up 14 percent of India's population, have
been reported from several parts of India recently. Last
September a man in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri village was lynched for
allegedly eating beef.

(Reporting by Manoj Kumar in New Delhi and Jatindra Dash in
Bhubaneswar; Editing by Douglas Busvine, Greg Mahlich)

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