Indian Cow Vigilante Social Media Influencer Accused of Murder

A cow vigilante influencer has become notorious in India and worldwide for uploading videos of his fights with suspected cow smugglers on several social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

The vigilante, who goes under the name of Monu Manesar on social media, has been documenting his war against people suspected of smuggling cattle or beef in India for six years, according to reports by the Wall Street Journal and the Hindustan Times.

Since 2014, India has seen incidences of cow vigilantism violence due to the animal’s revered status in Hinduism and many other religions in India. It also came as the Hindu nationalist BJP became the ruling power in the same year.

However, using physical force in the name of “cow protection” has led to many cases of violence against cow traders and smugglers, and Muslims, whose religion does not prohibit beef consumption.

Along with his associates, Monu Manesar, whose real name is Mohit Yadav, according to Indian police, is now being investigated for their role in the deaths of two alleged cow smugglers last February 16, where their burned bodies were found in their destroyed vehicle. The case ignited debates regarding vigilantism in India, further exacerbated by social media.

Yadav and his associates were members of an extremist Hindu nationalist group known as Bajrang Dal, notorious for its actions against Muslims, Christians, and Dalits, as well as cow vigilantism. He was said to have joined the organization in his second year of college.

According to inspector general Gaurav Srivastava of the Bharatpur region in Rajasthan, one of Yadav’s associates who appeared in some of his videos was apprehended for his alleged connection to the kidnapping and murder of the two victims. Yadav is also being searched by police and did not respond to any requests for comments.

Much of Monu Manesar’s social media content often violated community guidelines set by social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. His accounts filmed Manesar, and his fellow vigilantes in high-speed car chases pursuing alleged cow smugglers.

He and his associates would also ram their vehicles, shoot car tires while hunting down the smugglers, and exchange gunfire with the smugglers. His social media posts often included anti-Muslim slurs and graphic photos of victims bleeding from the head.

Human rights organizations believe that many social media platforms cannot clearly and adequately enforce their rules on violence and hate speech to avoid getting in trouble with India’s Hindu nationalist government.

They also warned Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, as well as YouTube under Google, that Manesar’s content threatens human life and threatens Muslims.

Manesar gained around 210,000 subscribers on YouTube and 150,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram. He even received a Silver Play Button award from YouTube in October of last year. Nevertheless, social media platforms started to take action soon after Manesar’s exploits were brought to light.

For instance, YouTube reviewed Manesar’s channel and removed nine videos that violated their community guidelines. They also removed his channel from their partner program, suspending his monetization indefinitely. Meta initially took down some of his posts on Facebook and Instagram before completely taking down his largest accounts.

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