Five people have been arrested for suspected links to the hanging of two Muslim cattle herders in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, police said Sunday.

The two herders, who also traded cattle, were found hanging from a tree Friday with their hands tied behind their backs and signs of being brutally beaten in Jhabbar village, according to the police. One of the victims was 15 years old.

Their deaths led to tension in the area with villagers alleging that local cow protection activists were behind the murder and attacking police for failing to take action against them. 

India's Hindu majority regard cows as holy and their slaughter is banned in several regions, including Jharkhand.

Local police official Anup Birthare said the five men arrested had said their motive was robbery.

"We are investigating all angles. I am not denying that one of the accused was a member of a cow protection committee," Birthare said.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das told reporters in state capital Ranchi that he had instructed the district administration in Latehar, where Jhabbar is located, that they should take precautions so that such incidents do not happen.

Das said Jharkhand had a law that did not allow cows to be taken out of the state.

Slaughter of cows and oxen or possession, consumption of their meat is banned in the state. Violators face up to 10 years' jail.

Das belongs to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has always had protection of the cow as part of its election manifestoes.

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