NEW DELHI: As a crowd of people, including policemen, stood by and watched, two Muslim women were slapped, kicked and abused by a mob led by cow vigilantes at a railway station in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday.

A mobile phone video taken by one of the spectators shows the violent incident, with policemen making only a half hearted attempt to stop the attackers. The police, NDTV reports, were at the railway station to arrest the two women. They had been tipped off about the women carrying a large quantity of beef to sell.

As the policemen apprehended the women, a mob gathers and begins assaulting them. The women were beaten for at least half an hour, with chants of "Gau Mata Ki Jai (Hail holy cow)" resonating from the crowd.

The policemen are seen making, at best, a half hearted attempt to control the crowd. The women are finally taken away by the police, after being subjected to blows, thrashes and verbal abuse.

Police sources say about 30kg of meat was recovered from the women. However, the consignment was examined by a local doctor who pronounced it buffalo meat, not beef, reports say.

Cow slaughter is banned in Madhya Pradesh, but buffalo meat is still legal. The women, however, were still arrested as they did not have the necessary permit to sell the beef.

At the time of writing, no action seems to have been taken against those who attacked the women. According to NDTV, the police say that no action has been taken against the cow vigilante group members leading the attack, because no one has come forward to complain against them.

Attacks linked to beef rumours have seen an increase in India, ever since Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh over rumours that his family were eating beef. More recently, a video of four Dalit men being flogged, tied to an SUV and paraded for skinning a dead cow in Una in Gujarat went viral.

Others include Zahid Ahmed who was killed over cow slaughter rumours in Kashmir; a truck driver who was lynched as Bajrang Dal activists suspected the smuggling of cattle; two youths who were beaten up in Karhal area, UP, as news spread that a cow had disappeared from a field near the village and was taken away for slaughter (the cow's owner told the police that the cow had died of natural causes) -- amongst several other incidents.

In fact, locally organised cow vigilante groups have sprung up across the country. These groups take matters into their own hands, using violence as a response to rumours and as a tool for fear mongering. Last month, Haryana Education Minister and RSS activist, Ram Bilas Sharma, went as far as defending the actions of these groups by saying, “The Hindu society has immense reverence for the cow. Youths are coming forward for cow protection like this. The law has brought a big change in the mindset of people and has swelled the reverence for the sacred animal.”