Four suspects have been charged with rape and murder after an Muslim woman and her 14-year-old cousin were gang raped, and two of their relatives murdered, in India's Haryana province.

The group of men in their 30s allegedly entered the victims' home in the Mewat district on August 24, sexually assaulting the 20-year-old woman and teenager. An older man and woman were tied up and beaten to death.

The woman told the BBC: "They [the accused men] said that we ate cow meat and that is why we were being disgraced [raped]. They even threatened to kill me and my family if we ever told anybody what happened to us."

Abid Khan, a member of the Mewat Bar Association, said: "We have never had any religious tensions here since independence. People [Hindus and Muslims] have always lived in peace in this area. It's possible that this incident was planned to create religious tensions in the area."


Killing cows is banned in many states of India, a majority-Hindu country that also has sizeable Muslim, Christian and Buddhist minorities.

"Cow protection" groups have recently proliferated across the country, buoyed by a ruling from the Hindu nationalist Government which has encouraged stronger anti-cow slaughter laws.

In July this year violent protests broke out across the state of Gujarat after a Hindu gang beat and publicly humiliated four low-caste youths accused of killing a cow.

The youths were spotted stripping the dead cow's hide near the town of Una. They were subsequently stripped, tied to a car and beaten with belts and iron rods by the vigilantes, as a large crowd looked on. A video of the attack was widely circulated online.

In 2015 a 50-year-old Muslim man, Mohammad Akhlaq, was beaten to death over rumours he had eaten beef.

Police told reporters Akhlaq was dragged from his house on the outskirts of New Delhi and attacked by around 100 people.

Akhlaq's daughter Sajida told the Indian Express: "They accused us of keeping cow meat, broke down our doors and started beating my father and brother. My father was dragged outside and beaten with bricks."