(CNN)Three men were beaten to death in a village in the northern Indian state of Bihar Friday, after locals suspected them of trying to steal cattle.
Three men beaten to death on suspicion of cattle theft in India
Local police launched an investigation, and three men were arrested on suspicion of murder.
At 4:30 a.m., three men tried to steal some cattle from the village of Baniyapur, when an observer saw them and raised the alarm. Locals rushed to catch them and beat the men to death, said Har Kishore Rai, superintendent of police, Saran district.
Two of the men died on the spot and one died on the way to a hospital.
Lynchings have increased and become fairly common in the past few years in India. Dozens of men have been beaten to death, accused of transporting cows, child kidnapping or eating beef.
In the Hindu community, many consider the cow as a sacred animal and the slaughter of cows is illegal in most Indian states.
The Supreme Court last year recommended the formation of new laws to combat mob violence.
It stated that the "horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land" and urged the government to enforce measures to protect citizens from a "recurrent pattern of violence which cannot be allowed to become the new normal."
Between May 2015 and December 2018, 44 people suspected of killing or transporting cows for slaughter, or even just eating beef, were killed in vigilante attacks, according to Human Rights Watch. That number included 36 Muslims.