A series of murders in India, linked to the slaughter of cattle and consumption of beef, is raising questions about whether the Hindu-dominated country is becoming less tolerant of minority religious groups.
Dawn has broken and Manjesh Prasad is preparing for his daily puja. He’s dressed in an orange dhoti, a length of cloth wrapped around his legs and waist and knotted under his bulging belly, ready to perform the ancient Hindu ritual.
Mr Prasad disappears into a small shrine on his uncle’s 15-acre farm to make his spiritual connection with the divine. He returns a quarter of an hour later, changed into a collared shirt and pants and ready for his day job. More holy work, as he sees it, managing a “gaoshala”, or cow shelter in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
“We have protected 650 cows with the help of the public,” says Mr Prasad.
Gaoshalas are common in India, run by Hindus like Mr Prasad in an attempt to protect cows from being slaughtered for meat. “The cows are like a God to us,” he explains.
Mr Prasad walks among the cattle – patting one here, another there. But his gentle disposition dissolves when asked about people who slaughter cattle.
“We should kill them,” he says. “We should kill them because there is no other way.”
And what about Christians and Muslims who eat beef?
“Killed,” he says firmly.