RAJASTHAN/NEW DELHI - Four Kashmiri students were allegedly beaten up at a private university in northern India over rumours that they were cooking beef in their hostel room, BBC reported Wednesday.
The police intervened and defused the situation, Indian media reports said. Most states ban cow slaughter as the animal is considered sacred by India's majority Hindu community.
Last year, a 50-year-old Muslim man was lynched by a Hindu mob in Uttar Pradesh over false rumours that his family had been storing and consuming beef. And in January, police in Madhya Pradesh state arrested members of a Hindu group for attacking a Muslim couple travelling in a train on suspicion that they were carrying beef. The latest incident took place on Monday at the Mewar University in the northern state of Rajasthan. Indian media reports said the students had been beaten, and some Hindu activists came to the campus and shouted slogans, but police were called in quickly and the situation did not escalate further.
Meanwhile, a mother hanged herself in India after a council of elders punished her family for her suspected extra-marital romance with a lower-caste man, a local police officer said Wednesday.
The mother-of-four killed herself on Monday as dozens of villagers gathered outside her house in central Madhya Pradesh state for a party the council had ordered her family to host as a punishment for the relationship.
The council, comprising members of the woman's caste, found her "guilty" last month of having a relationship with a man from the lowest Dalit caste, previously known as untouchables, in India's deeply entrenched social hierarchical system.
As well as hosting the drinking party in Tikamgarh district, the 25-year-old was also fined 5,000 rupees ($74) and ordered to attend a local temple to atone for her "sins", local police officer Maduresh Pacharui said.
The council, or "panchayat", had earlier sanctioned a social boycott of the family but changed the penalty after the woman's family pleaded before the village elders, Pacharui said. "It seems she was depressed with the events and over her alleged affair with her husband's co-worker, who is a Dalit. We are investigating the panchayat's role," he told AFP. Nobody has been arrested over her death so far, he said.
Panchayats exert enormous influence over rural life, particularly in northern India, where they act as arbitrators for millions of poor villagers who do not have access to legal recourse.
Although they carry no legal weight and are unconstitutional, they can be highly influential and have been blamed for numerous abuses such as the sanctioning of "honour killings" of couples and raping woman for defying social traditions. Branded "kangaroo courts" by critics, they have also been known to hand down public beatings and heavy fines for perceived crimes.