Mohammad Akhlaq was claimed to have been dragged from his home in the north Indian village of Bisara and beaten with sticks and bricks.

The 52-year-old was declared dead at a nearby hospital.

His 22-year-old son was also allegedly attacked and is being treated for serious injuries.

Beef is a taboo for many among India’s majority Hindu population.

The killing of the animal is banned in most of India’s states.

District Magistrate Nagendra Pratap Singh said a mob of about 60 Hindus became incenses when a temple announced the family had been slaughtering cows and storing the beef in his house.

Family members of Mohammad Akhlaq

Police have arrested eight people in connection with the incident.

A police officer said they spotted a crowd outside the family home and managed to rescue Mr Singh but he could not be saved.

Senior police superintendent Kiran S said a mob of around 100 people targeted the family home after the announcement at the temple.

Mr Akhlaq’s daughter Sajida said the family had mutton in the fridge and not beef, according to the Indian Express.

Due to the multiple benefits from cattle, there are varying beliefs about cattle in societies and religions.

In some regions, especially Nepal and most states of India, the slaughter of cattle is prohibited and their meat may be taboo.

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Cattle are considered sacred in world religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and others. Cattle played other major roles in many religions, including those of ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Israel, ancient Rome, and ancient Germany.

American academic Wendy Doniger correctly argues that Hindus “do not always treat cows with respect or kindness; cows are sometimes beaten and frequently half starved”.

India’s most revered leader Mahatma Gandhi may also have been responsible for the Hindu veneration of the cow. He once said that the “central fact of Hinduism is cow protection”, and spoke about the “idea of penance and self-sacrifice for the martyred innocence” it embodied.

Conflicts over cow slaughter often sparked religious riots that led to the killing of more than 100 people in 1893 alone. In 1966, at least eight people died in riots outside the parliament in Delhi while demanding a national ban on cow slaughter. And in 1979, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, considered by many as a spiritual heir of Mahatma Gandhi, went on a hunger strike to ban cow slaughter.

One of the reasons Indians love cows so much, writes historian Mukul Kesavan, is that ‘for Hindus the desi cow is a beautiful thing”.

“Its large eyes, its calm, its matte skin tinted in a muted palette that runs from off-white to grey through beige and brown, its painterly silhouette with its signature hump, make it the most evolved of animals,” he says.

It is also a sacred animal for the majority Hindu community, and they amble unmolested in traffic-choked streets. The animal is worshipped and decorated during festivals; holy men take around cows, with their foreheads smeared in vermillion, to seek alms.

There is even a journal called Indian Cow; and a Love 4 Cow Trust to “propagate and promote love” for cows. A right-wing Hindu organisation has actually launched cosmetics using cow urine and dung.

The cud-chewing, sedentary bovine also provides fodder for humour.

A hugely popular – and possibly apocryphal – story relates to an essay on the animal by a civil service aspirant. “The cow is a successful animal,” it began. “Also he is quadruped, and because he is female, he give milk, but will do so when he is got child.

He is same like God, sacred to Hindus and useful to man. But he has got four legs together. Two are forward and two are afterwards.”