SRINAGAR - Lawmakers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party punched and slapped a Muslim opposition member in a state parliament Thursday over eating beef, as debate rages in India over intolerance of religious minorities.

Television footage showed several Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators, who consider cows sacred, pushing and shoving Abdul Rashid, a Muslim, in the Indian Held Jammu and Kashmir state assembly for holding a "beef party".

"No amount of condemnation can be enough for what happened today," opposition leader Omar Abdullah told reporters outside the assembly in the northern region's main city of Srinagar.

"Trying to beat up a member, this is the first time I have ever seen something like this in any house," Abdullah, whose party walked out of the chamber over the attack. "Do I assault everyone who eats pork or alcohol?"

Rashid served beef kebabs at the "party" this week in protest against a ban on killing and eating cows in India's only Muslim-majority state. The issue ignited in the region after a top court last month ordered the long-standing but little enforced prohibition be strictly implemented. The attack comes as a wider debate rages in Hindu-majority India over hardliners' intolerance of Muslims and other religious minorities, many of whom eat beef as a source of protein.

Late last month, a mob beat a Muslim man to death in Uttar Pradesh state over rumours that he had eaten beef. The man was dragged from his home and attacked while his 22-year-old son was also severely injured.

Modi, a staunch Hindu nationalist, is under growing pressure to condemn that attack and defuse the growing row, amid accusations that his silence so far is only emboldening hardliners, including those from his own party.

Modi's government wants a nationwide ban on the slaughter of cows, which is prohibited in only some states. India is the world's biggest exporter of buffalo meat, an industry mainly run by Muslims.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for religious harmony on Thursday, breaking a week-long silence after the mob killing of a Muslim man rumoured to have slaughtered a cow sparked fears that Hindu zealots were targeting minorities.

At an election rally in the northern state of Bihar, Modi appealed for Indians to ignore hate speeches. "We must decide whether Hindus and Muslims should fight each other, or against poverty," he said. "Only peace and goodwill can take this country forward."

Since a Muslim man was beaten to death last week over rumours that he butchered a cow, politicians of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including ministers, have made statements seemingly in defence of the Hindu mob that killed him.

"I have done nothing wrong," said Abdul Rashid Sheikh, the lawmaker thrashed by his colleagues. "I consumed beef. It is my religious right and also my fundamental right."

The order led to fierce protests in India's only Muslim-majority state and forced a three-day Internet shutdown during the Eid festival. Protesters are asking for the Supreme Court to revoke the ban.

Indian states are allowed to impose their own laws on the slaughter of cattle and enforcement varies dramatically. This week, in Delhi and the southern state of Kerala, where beef is widely eaten, groups of young people held beef-eating "picnics" to promote their right to eat the meat.