Violence between security forces and civilians in the Indian state of Orissa has intensified in recent days. On Monday, authorities said that five people had been killed after a clash between police and a cattle-rustling gang. The police were seeking the gang and for their attack on a police station, which happened on Thursday.
The attack was initially targeted at a police station in a district in the central part of the state, as the Times of India reported. But the police and locals later clashed in the village of Bhilai, as police were demanding that the criminals involved in the earlier violence surrender or surrender themselves. A video of the incident shows police with their hands on guns confronting a crowd of villagers who were attempting to prevent them from making the arrests.
The crowd can be heard shouting “Stop” as bullets and tear gas are fired into the crowd. At least one woman can be seen lying bleeding in the street and people can be heard asking, “Is this what you want?”
Another video shows a woman jumping on top of an adult man lying on the ground. Police said that the man was killed by the police. A police spokesperson said that both civilians and police officers were hurt in the violence. Others have claimed that at least three men were also killed in the violence.
On Wednesday, two civilians were killed after another clash between the police and local people. The Independent reported that the mob was angry over the hanging of a cow vigilante in a different region, and the police were called in to control the violence. An official told the Associated Press that police chased down and killed the cow vigilante and that the mob was attempting to take revenge.
Cattle are a common victim of human-grazing conflicts across India. Many Indians consider cows sacred animals, and some refuse to slaughter them if they are suspected of stealing them, fearing retribution. Such a practice has been legalized in parts of the country, prompting an outcry from human rights groups. Authorities have arrested about a dozen people for cow rustling in Orissa in recent weeks.
Authorities have been criticized for violating protesters’ rights to free speech and have used heavy-handed measures, such as police beating and firing into crowds. Ram Gopal Kundariya, a former commissioner in the state, said that local authorities had given up on trying to appease the angry crowd and had resorted to brute force to quell the protests. He said the conduct of the police was “shocking” and that the police had been instructed to do away with shields and protective gear, as they “should have been used” in the situation. The National Human Rights Commission of India has summoned the chief minister and the inspector general of police from the state to inquire into the police use of force against protestors.
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