Auraiya: A community of meat-sellers, the Qureshis, are on the run after two priests were brutally murdered and one critically injured in a temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Auraiya district on Wednesday. Most of the nine suspects were from the community, the police said, and the fear of reprisal was high.

Five people — Salman, Nadeem, Majnu, Shahzad and Jabbar — have been arrested for the ISIS-style murder. Four are on the run. They are allegedly locals involved in cow smuggling.

The three sadhus were found tied to their bedsteads at the Bhayanak Nath temple in Kudarkot village in Auraiya’s Bidhuna area with their tongues cut off and flung nearby. They had also sustained injuries inflicted by sharp-edged objects.

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The deceased were identified as head priest Lajja Ram, 70 and Halke Ram, 60. The third, Ram Sharan, was rushed to the hospital. His condition was critical.

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This incident angered local residents who demanded immediate arrest of the murderers and protested by blocking the main road. According to reports, the protesters also hurled stones at policemen who were trying to disperse them.

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Auraiya district magistrate SP Mishra and superintendent of police Nageshwar Singh were on the spot.

20 people were found detained for questioning at the Kudarkot police office. A resident of the village alleged that the police are harassing Muslims in the name of investigation. Members of the Qureshi community, who are involved in the slaughtering business, are the prime suspects of the police. Male members of Muslim families are fleeing the village, fearing police action. 

The police suspect that the priests have been targeted for informing local authorities about alleged cow slaughter near the Bhayankar Nath temple.