More than two weeks after the lynching of a Muslim man for allegedly eating beef sparked global outrage, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally broken his silence.
Speaking to Indian newspaper Anandabazar Patrika, Modi said he and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) do not condone such incidents and added the BJP-led government at the center did not have anything to do with it.
Mohammad Akhlaq, 52, was accused of killing a cow and eating it after a rumor was circulated using the public announcement system at a local temple.
A mob dragged Akhlaq and his family out of their home in the town of Dadri near capital New Delhi and beat him to death and badly injured his son Danish. Subsequent media reports revealed the meat was actually mutton, not beef.
Akhlaq's murder was one in a series of incidents that have sparked questions about India's culture of tolerance. Two months earlier, progressive Indian scholar M. M. Kalburgi was shot dead in Dharwad district of Karnataka by an unidentified gunman.
More recently, a concert in Mumbai by veteran Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali was cancelled after organizers received threats from the Shiv Sena, a far right regional party in Maharashtra, according to local media reports.
Former BJP leader Sudheendra Kulkarni was smeared with black paint, again by Shiv Sena activists, for hosting the former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who was in town to launch his memoir.
Addressing his critics, Modi told the newspaper that his opponents were using incidents such as Dadri to engage in political polarization. He accused them of indulging in what he called 'vote bank politics', that is pandering to voters from a certain religious background.