According to eyewitness accounts, this blood-curdling sequence of events unfolded in a matter of minutes Monday night: A Hindu temple announced sacrilege; villagers formed an angry mob; and normal people, fueled by each other's presence, became assailants.
A Muslim blacksmith, Mohammad Akhlaq, and his son Danish were battered by people who knew them. The father died, and his son was has been hospitalized with critical injuries.
What triggered the bloody assault? A rumor that a cow was slaughtered in that nondescript neighborhood, home to mostly Rajputs — a high-ranking valiant Hindu caste meaning "sons of the kings."
In Hinduism, cows are deemed sacred and their killing a sin.
'It was blood all over my son's face. He is gone'
"Two young men came to me that night and asked me to announce on the loudspeaker that there's a carcass of a cow lying nearby," the temple priest, Sukhdas Mahatma, told CNN.
"They pressured me to make that announcement. What could I do? I had to make that announcement," he said, moving his fingers on his flowing white beard.
Soon after his broadcast, villagers crowded around the temple compound, and decided to set out for Akhlaq's home through the winding, narrow and broken lanes. They believed the 50-year-old blacksmith was the culprit because his faith doesn't prohibit eating beef. And his was one of the two Muslim households in that neighborhood of more than 6,000 people.
"I heard loud bangs on the front door of our house," said Asghari Begum, the mother of Mohammad Akhlaq. "Then I heard them shouting expletives," she said. Before she could react, a group of men scaled the walls and jumped into the house.
"They pushed me, then punched me on my face, in the abdomen," Begum said, pointing to her bruised and swollen eye.
The mob then ran to the first floor of Akhlaq's home and dragged him out, along with 22-year-old Danish. Both were beaten with "whatever they (attackers) could lay their hands on," police superintendent Kiran Sivakumar told CNN.
"It was blood all over my son's face. He is gone," moaned Begum, sitting on a cot in her dark, ground-floor room.