Supriya Nair in The Atlantic:
One day in June, towards the end of Ramadan, two young Muslim brothers on a visit to Delhi to buy new clothes for Eid boarded a train to return home, three hours away. Soon, they became embroiled in a disagreement over seating with fellow passengers, which escalated into an argument over their religion. The other passengers taunted the boys, calling them “beef-eaters,” and pulling at their beards, one of the brothers later said. Eventually, the knives came out. By the time the train had passed the boys’ village, the assault was underway. Fifteen-year-old Junaid Khan was thrown out of the carriage one station past the boys’ stop; he had been stabbed multiple times, and was later declared dead at Civil Hospital in Palwal.
Within days, thousands were flooding the streets of India’s cities in protests sparked by Junaid’s murder, led by Indians aghast at an ever-lengthening list of violent crimes committed by Hindu mobs. Lynching is an old crime here, often committed against those of so-called lower castes and marginalized tribes, in order to reinforce brutal social hierarchies. But dozens of news reports over the last two years indicate a dramatic rise in a specific kind of mob murder: the so-called “beef lynchings” of Muslims.
Of all the social fault lines caused by cultural and religious sensitivities surrounding food in India, none cut deeper than beef and beef-eating.