Seventeen cattle, including eight cows, were found dead in the ground of a government school in a village here in Madhya Pradesh, prompting the state government to order an inquiry on Thursday.
The police registered a case against unidentified persons after the incident at the government school at Samudan village, about 50kms from the district headquarters, came to light on Wednesday, an official said.
"We received information about the dead cows being buried in the school's ground. On reaching there, we exhumed the carcasses of 17 cattle - eight cows and nine oxen - and cremated them after conducting a post-mortem," Dabra's sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Raghvendra Pandey said.
"There are four government offices inside the school premises and their employees have also been served notices. Directions have been issued to take criminal and departmental action against the employees if they are found guilty," he said.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath expressed grief over the incident on Twitter, saying an "impartial inquiry" has been ordered.
"Strict action will be taken against the guilty after the inquiry. We are committed for the protection of cows. Such incidents would not be tolerated," Nath said.
Activists of right-wing organisations also reached the school to register their protest, another official said.
Bajrang Dal leader Manoj Rajak claimed the cows were allegedly locked in a room at the school about a week ago.
"Unidentified villagers had locked stray cattle in a room at the school about a week ago. Villagers got to know about their death when foul odour started emanating in the area," Rajak said.
When they got to know about the deaths, Bajrang Dal workers reached the school on Wednesday and found that villagers had dug up a pit and buried them, he said, adding that subsequently, the SDM was informed about this.
BJP national vice-president and former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the cattle deaths could have been averted.
"The Congress had promised to set up 'gaushalas' (cow shelters) in its manifesto. The incident could have been averted if the local authorities had taken them to a gaushala.
"Killing cows is a sin. The government should take steps to avoid such incidents in the future," Chouhan said.