Demonstrators in Mumbai take part in a protest against a spate of murders targeting minorities under the pretext of protecting cows July 3, 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned a string of murders targeting minorities accused of beef consumption and selling cows for slaughter, which are considered sacred by many Hindus, after critics accused the government of turning a blind eye. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi July 16 urged state governments to take a strong stand against "anti-social elements" who commit crimes and sought opposition support to tackle the "issue of communal violence in the name of cow protection."

"Some anti-social elements have incited violence in the name of cow protection. Those engaged in disturbing the harmony in the country are trying to take advantage of the situation," Modi said at an all-party meeting ahead of Parliament's monsoon session, which began July 17.

He asked state governments to "deal sternly against such anti-social elements," according to an official statement that quoted the prime minister’s address to party floor leaders in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha in Parliament House.

"Maintaining law and order is the responsibility of state governments and wherever these incidents are taking place, the state governments must deal firmly with it. The state governments must also see to it that in the name of cow protection some people are settling personal rivalry," he said.

Attacks on people accused of beef eating or slaughtering cows have raised concerns as the targets of such violence have been minorities and Dalits.

Modi has spoken out against cow vigilantes in the past, but has had little impact on curbing violence.

An estimated 30 people have been killed in cow-related violence since 2010. According to an analysis of IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative, of the 63 cases of mob lynching recorded since 2010, 61 occurred after Modi took power. 

Twenty-four of the 28 people killed in the attacks were Muslims. In the first half of 2017, there were 20 cow or beef-related attacks in India.

Modi sought opposition support in curbing the violence that "has an impact on the image of the nation."

He "urged all parties to extend their support to the government in fighting corruption and the issue of communal violence in the name of cow protection," another statement from the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs said.

"All political parties should condemn strongly this goondaism in the name of cow protection," Modi said.

"Cow is revered as the mother in our country. Public sentiments are attached with the cow. However, people must know that there is a law to protect the cow and the violation of law is not an alternative."

The opposition has vowed to raise the issue in Parliament and will seek answers from the government on its efforts to end the violence.

Without mentioning India's military standoff with China, the prime minister asserted that all political parties stood united to ensure the "nation's safety and security after such concerns were raised by many leaders on recent developments."

He said the government was "fully committed to maintain peace in Jammu and Kashmir and to wipe out the anti-national elements from the state," and reiterated that the path laid down by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was being pursued. 

Modi also asked the opposition to support the government in conducting business in both the Houses "without disruption." The monsoon session ends Aug. 11.

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