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Seeing Cow Slaughter Just As Another Crime

The killing of Subodh Kumar Singh, the inspector of police of Syana in the Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh, signifies the rising temperature on religious issues in the state. The trigger for the violence of Hindu extremists was said to be some cow carcasses found in the forests in the area. A large mob gathered and mounted an attack on the police station. Singh was trying to control the mob when he was first hit with a stone, then chased when he tried to flee in his SUV, and shot dead. A post mortem report confirmed that he died of bullet injuries. The mob took away his service gun. The driver of his jeep said men hiding in the fields were firing at him.

The incident raises a number of serious concerns. First, the people who noticed the carcasses of cows in the forests should have reported the matter to the police. Instead of doing that, they informed the elements who were known to have extreme views on religious issues. They found it a good opportunity to collect a mob and attack the police station. This amounted to taking the law in their hands. A ban on cow slaughter is in force in most of the states of the country. Anyone who is found to have slaughtered a cow is liable for prosecution. But in this case, the police was not given time to investigate who brought the carcasses to the forests. The police was not even informed. A mob marched to the police station. The fact that guns were used to fire at the police and to kill the police inspector suggests that armed men formed a part of the mob. The intention of the people gathered before the police station did not seem to be to track down those who had hidden the carcasses in the forests but to open fire and kill the officer.

The second serious concern flows from the prejudice Hindu extremists allegedly had against the deceased police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh. This prejudice painted him as ‘pro-Muslim’ because he was the investigating officer for the case of lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq, 52 in a village in Dadri in 2015 on the suspicion that he had killed a calf and kept its meat in his fridge. Singh was disliked by Hindu extremists for not ‘confirming’ their ‘evidence’ that the meat in Akhlaq’s fridge was the meat of a calf. Singh’s young son has lamented that his father was killed because he was not partisan to any religion. It is scary to think that extremists want investigating officers to say in their reports what they want them to say. This makes a mockery of fairness and justice in the criminal justice system. Singh’s family members suspect that the mob that came armed to attack the police station at Syana after the discovery of the carcasses in the forests gathered to ‘avenge’ the ‘pro-Muslim’ investigation of the police inspector by killing him.

What the mob did at Syana shows governance in UP in a very bad light. The BJP had fought elections on the plank of containing violence that was the hallmark of the ‘jungle raj’ of the Akhilesh Yadav government. The BJP had attacked the Mayawati government in the past also on the same grounds. Yet the murder of the police inspector of Syana shows that the same ‘jungle raj’ goes on in UP, regardless of the claims Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath makes. As far as violence on religious issues is concerned, Adityanath cannot escape the responsibility for making Hindu extremists feel bolder with his provocative comments against the minority communities that often amount to warcries. Such provocative comments only reinforce religious prejudices. Worse, they seek to identify police officers as ‘pro-Hindu’ or ‘pro-minority,’ depending on whether a police officer is sympathetic to them and directly or indirectly helps them or stops them from doing what they want to do in accordance with their prejudices and emotions against the members of the minority communities. Such religious segregation of public servants by the extremists can destroy governance.

There may be elements that are still engaged in slaughtering cows despite the ban. But that should be taken as other crimes are taken. Making of a law does not mean its total enforcement. All laws are violated – civil and criminal. Borders are closely policed but smuggling goes on. Income tax authorities keep on tightening the screws but still tax evasion goes on. Incidents of killing of cows, if any, should be taken like other incidents are taken – as violations of an existing law. The guilty should not be judged through the prism of religion. Do we segregate smugglers and tax evaders by religion?

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