PRIME Minister Narendra Modi has once again asked the states to take stringent action self-proclaimed cow protectors. Last year he described them as pseudo gau rakshaks, saying that they styled themselves as cow protectors during the day and resorted to criminal activities at night. His second warning has come in the wake of reports of lynching of several persons over allegations of carrying or eating beef. It is significant that he wants political parties not to portray cow vigilantism as a religious issue to gain political mileage as it would be detrimental to the country’s secular fibre. His statement applies equally to organizations supporting cow protection as well as opposition parties blaming it upon the groups having kinship with the Sangh parivar. Indisputably cow vigilantism should not be given political or communal colour.
All political parties, including the BJP and its NDA allies, need to come together and put an end to the violence by self-styled cow vigilantes. In the states where the BJP is ruling no encouragement to groups professing cow protection using violent means should be given. BJP governments have taken action against offenders in some cases; they need to do more. Most lynchings have taken place in the BJP-rules states. There has been a spurt in the number of cases of attacks by the pseudo cow vigilantes over the last two years and scores of cases have been reported in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand. The states did not take the Prime Minister’s first warning seriously. Let us hope that they would act strongly and arrest and prosecute the offenders as well as take steps to prevent lynching of people in the name of cow protection. The Prime Minister’s advice to the states to open dossiers to see how many of the self-proclaimed vigilantes were criminals should be followed.
BJP President Amit Shah recently alleged that there were more lynchings during the UPA regime. It cannot be anybody’s case that violence was not taking place during the Congress-led regime. Lynchings by mobs of criminals are quite a gory, but common phenomenon in India. There have been lynchings of eve teasers and boys in love with a girl whose family did not like him to see her. However, the difference between those lynchings and the lynchings taking place in the BJP-ruled states is that it is being done in the name of Hindu religion. Cow protection has been an issue in India for very long, and most states have passed a law banning cow slaughter. The ban was imposed by governments run by the Congress party.
However, in the last two years the scene has changed, with cow vigilante groups resorting to violence in many places. The impression created by this spurt is that the cow vigilantes have felt emboldened by the coming to power of the BJP at the Centre and in the states; they think here was the time for them to strike. In some of the cases the elements involved had association with organizations that were a part of the Sangh parivar, while in other cases they went about under the umbrella of some Hindu organization. The Prime Minister has perhaps chosen to advise strict action against cow vigilantes in order to send out a message to the organizations associated with the Sangh parivar and other Hindu organizations not to indulge in violence in the name of cow protection. For the Prime Minister the matter is of serious concern as it makes lndia look to be still in the medieval age in the eyes of the world. After all, the Sangh parivar, which Prime Minister Modi comes from, prides on the glory of Indian civilization and he would not like the world leaders and international media and groups to point out lynchings in the name of cow protection as something that disproves India was a civilized country.
There are other forces within the Sangh parivar who are as much concerned by the violence in the name of cow protection as Prime Minister Modi is. Former MP Tarun Vijay has asked the cow protectors to worry more about the issues like who takes care of the aged cows than about who is eating beef. The media recently carried reports of stray and aged cows being stabbed and smeared with chilly powder in their eyes and on their udders by farmers who wanted to drive them away from their fields. It has been a common cruel practice for farmers to take no care of the cows that stop giving milk. A cow is a mother as long as it gives milk. After that it is thrown out of home. Why are cow vigilantes not stopping this cruel practice?