NEW DELHI: India's top court on Wednesday ordered central and state governments to appoint police officers to stop hardline Hindu activists from attacking people to protect cows.

India has seen a wave of mob attacks on Muslims accused of killing cows or eating beef over the past couple of years.

Many Hindus worship the cow as sacred and right-wing Hindu groups, some linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, have been accused of fomenting violence against Muslims and lower-caste Hindus who eat beef or work in the meat and leather industries.

In June, Modi broke his silence over the violence, saying murder in the name of protecting cows was not acceptable.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra said federal and state governments must take effective steps to contain the cow-protection groups.

"Appoint police officers to stop cow protection groups from taking law into their hands," Misra said after hearing three public interest litigation cases.

Appearing on behalf of petitioners, advocate Indira Jaisingh said there had been more than 60 incidents where people had been assaulted or beaten to death after allegations that they had killed cows or were in possession of beef.

Cow slaughter is banned in several states and stringent punishment has been introduced for offenders.

The police registered more than three dozen cases in the last two years against vigilantes for targeting people who eat beef or work in the meat and leather industries.