Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has broken his silence over the mob killing of a Muslim man rumoured to have eaten beef.
Hindus and Muslims should fight poverty and not each other, he told a campaign rally in Bihar.
Mr Modi had been under pressure to condemn the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was beaten to death last month.
Hindus consider cows sacred and slaughtering the animals is banned in many states.
Mr Modi’s government wants a nationwide ban, but beef is consumed by Muslims and other religious minorities in India.
The prime minister said Indians should ignore “irresponsible” statements by politicians – including ones made by himself – and work together.
“Hindus should decide whether to fight Muslims or poverty. Muslims have to decide whether to fight Hindus or poverty.
“Both need to fight poverty together…. The country has to stay united,” he said.
But his comments come on the same day that members of Mr Modi’s BJP party beat a Muslim politician in the Kashmir state assembly after he served beef at a private party.
The politician – Rashid Ahmed – said he did it in protest against a ban on serving beef in the state.
Opposition leader Omar Abdullah led a walkout, asking afterwards: “Do I assault everyone who eats pork or alcohol?”
BJP Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said he did not approve of the attack but said that serving beef was “also wrong”.
Mohammad Akhlaq died after being kicked and beaten with stones by a group of men in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh state late in September. His son was seriously injured.
Six people have been arrested in connection with the incident. – BBC News