India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said murder in the name of cow protection is “not acceptable”.
Many Hindus consider the cow a sacred animal and cow slaughter is banned in several states.
The comments come just days after a Muslim teenager was brutally killed on a train by a group of Hindu men.
On Wednesday, thousands of Indians took part in protests against rising attacks on Muslims and Dalits (formerly untouchables) by vigilante groups.
Similar protests under the banner #NotInMyName were held in several Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Allahabad, as well as in London. Gatherings are also planned for later in the week in Chennai city as well as in Toronto in Canada, Boston in the US, and Karachi in Pakistan.
Critics of the government say that ever since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, cow protection vigilantes have carried out numerous attacks on Muslims and Dalits, for whom beef is a staple.
They have also criticised Mr Modi for not doing enough to condemn the attacks.
Nearly a dozen people have been killed in these attacks. Targets are often picked based on rumours and Muslims have been attacked for even transporting cows for milk.
On Thursday, Mr Modi told a gathering in his home state Gujarat that killing people in the name of cow protection was “not in keeping with the principles of India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi”.
“As a society, there is no place for violence,” Mr Modi said, adding that “no person has the right to take the law in his or her own hands”.
This is not the first time Mr Modi has commented on the cow vigilante groups.
He had made similar comments in August, but mob lynchings of Muslims accused of eating beef or killing cattle have continued.