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RANCHI, Jharkhand (Web Desk) – In an incident reminiscent of the Dadri lynching, the bodies of two cattle traders have been found hanging from a tree in Indian state of Jharkhand.

Muhammad Majloom, 35, and Azad Khan alias Ibrahim, 15, were herding eight buffaloes on their way to a Friday market when they were beaten up and hanged to death from a tree by Hindu extremists in Balumath forests in Latehar district, 100km from the state capital.

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Their bodies were strung up with their hands tied behind their backs and their mouths stuffed with cloth, the Times of India reported.

“The manner of their hanging showed that the assailants were led by extreme hatred,” said Latehar SP Anoop Birthary.

Local MLA from the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) Prakash Ram claimed that Hindu radicals were behind the killings. Reports said villagers who protested the deaths claimed the victims were targeted as they were cattle traders.

Birthary, however, did not identify the assailants. “We are gathering leads to verify whether personal or business enmity led to the murder or it was due to some other motive. The buffaloes were freed. It is yet to be known if the buffaloes were taken away by the assailants or they strayed into the forest,” Birthary said.

The hanging sparked protests by people in Jhabbar village that turned violent when police tried to take down the bodies. The situation poses a serious political and law and order challenge for the BJP government in Jharkhand.

Attacks on cattle traders have been reported from several parts of India of late. In September 2015, a man in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri village was lynched for allegedly eating beef.

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SDO Kamleshwar Narayan and six cops were injured when villagers threw stones at officials who arrived in the morning to manage the situation and ensure that it did not take a communal turn.

Injuries to senior officials forced police to fire in the air and baton charge the villagers.

An FIR was lodged against unknown persons for the murder and another FIR was lodged against unknown persons.

The area saw clashes between two communities over eating beef four months ago.

In Jharkhand, the BJP government of Arjun Munda brought an ordinance for the prevention of cow slaughter in 2005.

It later became an act, introducing a penalty of Rs 5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years or both for offenders.

However, implementation is a problem. Sources say at least 5,000 cows are smuggled to Bangladesh every month, mainly through neighbouring West Bengal.