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NEW DELHI – As she patrols for cow smugglers, the Hindu holy woman rides in a white SUV with a window sticker displaying a cow framed by swords and rifles. The words on the logo say, "The cow is the mother of the world."
Kamal leads a vigilante force of thousands, mostly young Hindu men. They emerged after several Indian states banned the slaughter of cows, which are sacred to Hindus. Mobs have lynched three dozen Muslims, who traditionally run meat shops and slaughterhouses.
As India heads toward elections beginning this week, taking up arms for "mother cow" is part of a broader campaign to impose Hindu religious values across a multicultural country. As with similar movements across the world, Hindu nationalism, once fringe, has taken a central place in India's politics.