The Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that Indian authorities should persecute so-called “cow vigilantes”.

The rights body expressed on Thursday, saying that the Indian authorities blame the victims instead of “cow protectors” who assault targets and in some cases even kill them.

The HRW said “the police, too often, have filed complaints against the assault victims, their relatives, and associates under laws banning cow slaughter.”

The attacks are generally aimed at Muslims, the HRW says, as they do not have religious restriction on eating beef.

Dozens of Muslims have been killed by the cow protectors since May 2015. One of the incidents included a 12-year-old boy.

In an attack last week, five members of a cattle-herding family were attacked on the suspicion that they were about to take their cows to slaughter them.

“Self-appointed ‘cow protectors’ driven by irresponsible populism are killing people and terrorizing minority communities. The government should condemn this violence and take prompt action against those responsible for these attacks or face allegations of complicity,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia Director.

A top Indian politician has come to defend the killing of a Muslim man who was attacked by a mob of angry cow vigilantes for transporting cattle, saying “he was partly to blame”.