Chandrapal Singh, a senior administrative officer of Mainpuri district, said on Saturday that police arrested at least 21 people from across the troubled region over the act of violence.
“A rumor spread (on Friday) that a cow has been slaughtered, after which some people beat up the men and resorted to arson,” media outlets quoted Singh as saying.
However, a post-mortem of the cow showed that it had died for a while as a result of some ailment, the official said.
Singh added that the men were only removing its skin when they came under attack by the furious mob, he added.
Indian media outlets said some 500 people armed with iron rods and bamboo sticks had set fire to dozens shops belonging to Muslims after the incident. At least two Muslim men were seriously wounded during the violence and are said to be in critical condition.
Local resident said that police fired tear gas in order to disperse the mob.
The latest incident comes days after Mohammad Akhlaq, a Muslim man, was dragged from his house in the village of Bisada in Uttar Pradesh and beaten to death by about 100 people on September 28. The man was killed over rumors that he had eaten beef, a taboo in the Hindu-majority nation.
Akhlaq’s 22-year-old son was also seriously injured in the attack.