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Photo Courtesy : https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org
Photo Courtesy : https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org

Cow vigilantes attacked six people, including a 9-year-old girl in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday and fled away with their flock. The vigilantes beat up the nomad community blue and black and the minor girl has suffered multiple fractures when the community was en route to Talwara area…
(http://www.timesnow.tv/india/video/cow-vigilantes-attack-6-including-9-year-old-in-jammu/59745)

In yet another chilling instance of self-styled gau rakshaks targeting cattle traders — and mob mentality thriving undeterred — three men transporting buffaloes were attacked by “cow vigilantes” in south Delhi’s Kalkaji late Saturday, a Hindustan Times report said.
(http://www.dailyo.in/politics/cow-terror-spreads-to-delhi-the-new-normal-in-modis-new-india/story/1/16808.html)

“Cow protectionism was the spirit behind India’s freedom movement”(http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cow-protectionism-was-spirit-behind-freedom-movement-minister/article17831763.ece) The innocuous looking statement by Ms Nirmala Sitharaman on the floor of the house when she defended the shutting of illegal slaughter houses in UP had not raised any debate then.

Now the real import of this statement is coming to the fore when the alleged killers of Pehlu Khan – a farmer from Haryana – are being compared with martyrs of freedom struggle. The video of the whole incident – where a lady, who heads  a ‘cow protection group’ – who recently came into news when she allegedly forced Jaipur administration to close down a hotel owned by a Muslim under some flimsy pretext, has gone viral where she is comparing one of the accused in the case -who is part of a self-proclaimed band of cow vigilantes – as “Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad of today“. (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/sadhvi-kamal-didi-equates-alwar-lynching-case-accused-with-bhagat-singh/articleshow/58277205.cms)
For close watchers of the incidents of cow vigilantism, which are increasingly coming under scanner everywhere, there was nothing surprising about this glorification. People had watched with horror when body of one of the accused in the Dadri lynching case was covered with tricolour. (https://thewire.in/71505/draping-national-flag-on-body-of-dadri-lynching-accused-by-bisada-village-unconstitutional/) It is now history how the lynching took place when the crowd had been mobilised by giving open calls using loudspeaker placed on the local temple and the frenzied mob had killed Akhlaq in front of his house supposedly for storing beef.

When a senior minister of the central cabinet can even deny the happening of such an incident on the floor of the house (http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/on-cow-vigilante-attacks-notice-to-centre-6-states-including-rajasthan-uttar-pradesh-1678459) and where the first FIR filed in this case is not against the violence unleashed upon the victims but the victims themselves on fraudulent charges, (https://thewire.in/125934/gau-wapsi-muslim-cattle-trader-cows/) it is obvious that anything can happen in all such cases. Perhaps people in this part of South Asia have now to come to terms with this ‘new India’ which was promised to us post UP elections.
As plans are now afoot to organise a three-day national dharna outside the Rajasthan State Assembly from 24-26 April 2017 (https://kafila.online/2017/04/19/national-call-to-join-three-day-dharna-in-jaipur-to-demand-justice-regarding-the-lynching-of-pehlu-khan/) under the joint initiative of many political, social and human rights organisations, to protest killing of Pehlu Khan and demand justice for him, the sanitisation of the image of the murderers should worry us all. Reports have appeared in a section of newspapers which tell that the murder accused are being projected as social activists. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/alwar-lynching-pamphlets-claims-accused-are-social-workers-who-help-police/story-ODZFcZdNQyc25Zogn4IWFN.html) What is more disturbing is the manner in which freedom fighters are being openly humiliated by comparing them with fanatic murderers and historic struggle of Indian people for liberation is being trivialised. In fact, this has been an established practice of the saffrons now.

As every law abiding individual is watching with trepidation how “cow terror” is spreading throughout the country – from Dadri to Latehar, from Una to Alwar and from Jammu to now the capital – with custodians of law and order turning mute spectators and “.. [h]uman slaughter in the name of the bovine” becoming “tragically the new normal in India. (http://www.dailyo.in/politics/cow-terror-spreads-to-delhi-the-new-normal-in-modis-new-india/story/1/16808.htmlThere are reports that the apex court of the country is also seized of the matter. In fact it intervened in the issue few days back and has sought responses not only from the centre and but also six states within three weeks. The six states are Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Karnataka and except for Congress-ruled Karnataka, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power in the remaining states. A three judge bench of the apex court is hearing public interest litigation petition filed by activists and an alleged victim of similar vigilantism.

According to reports focus of the petition is on “Animal protection laws such as the Maharashtra Animal Protection Act, 1956, which prohibit any legal action against persons for actions done in good faith under the law,” In fact, some states also grant the power of search-and-seize to officials under such laws. The petition also referred to a 2011 ruling of the apex court in which it had directed the government to disband vigilante groups. (http://www.livemint.com/Politics/7shxXkCxm3VyYUyJufqwEI/SC-notice-to-6-BJPruled-states-on-plea-over-legal-protectio.html).

Whether the honourable judges would give a direction on the issue and ban such groups and come forward to defend rule of law remains to be seen.

Subhash Gatade is the author of Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010)  Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India,(2011) and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India(2011). He is also the Convener of New Socialist Initiative (NSI)  Email : subhash.gatade@gmail.com

 

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    There may be a sinister design of some sort of legal protection to cow vigilantes as the politicians in the government itself are defending the crimes perpetrated on the pretext of cow slaughter. Mainly the ploy is to isolate Muslims in future as a part of electoral strategy. This hegemonic design may provebdangerous for the progress of secular democracy