SC’s intervention will hopefully deter cow vigilantes from harassing public | editorials | Hindustan Times
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SC’s intervention will hopefully deter cow vigilantes from harassing public

This vigilantism has created a culture of fear among minorities who are engaged in the disposal of cow carcasses or in tanneries

editorials Updated: Oct 24, 2016 00:19 IST
Dalits shout slogans during a protest march from Ahmedabad to Una where four members of the community were brutally beaten by alleged vigilantes for skinning a dead cow, Ahmedabad, August 5
Dalits shout slogans during a protest march from Ahmedabad to Una where four members of the community were brutally beaten by alleged vigilantes for skinning a dead cow, Ahmedabad, August 5(HT)

Opposition to vigilante groups enforcing their own brand of justice in the issue of cow protection has come from many quarters, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But given that they do not seem to heed this and are going about their business of harassing people on the mere suspicion that they are cattle rustlers or are in possession of beef, the Supreme Court has now stepped in. It has agreed to hear a plea challenging certain laws that give protection to these groups in the country. A PIL also sought the removal of content on the Internet that is used as propaganda by such groups and which is allegedly inciting citizens. The plea also asks for adequate compensation for victims who have been attacked by vigilante groups.

Read: Why RSS will not like PM Modi’s comment on cow vigilantes

Several states have animal protection laws. For example the Maharashtra Animal Protection Act, 1956, prohibits any legal action against persons for actions done in good faith under the law. Other states which have cow protection laws permit officials to search and seize if they suspect that there has been a violation. The Supreme Court has, in 2011, directed the government to ensure that such vigilante groups are disbanded. There are over 200 cow protection groups in the NCR region alone.

Several people have been killed by vigilante groups, the most talked about being the case of Mohammed Iklaq who was beaten to death in Dadri on suspicion that the meat in his fridge was beef. A young man in Kashmir was killed, another was lynched in Himachal Pradesh and two were hanged in Jharkhand, one of them just 13 years old after cow protection groups came to the conclusion that they were transporting cows.

Read: Modi slams cow vigilantes, again: ‘Fake gau rakshaks want to fuel tension’

In many cases of harassment, especially of Dalits and Muslims, it was found that there was no basis for the allegations of the groups. The law absolutely cannot give protection to any vigilante group. There are enough laws in states which ban cow slaughter and it is up to the police to uphold them. These self-styled protectors should not be allowed to hide behind vague concepts like `good faith’ to harass people.

Read: At town hall event, PM Modi says self-styled cow protectors make him angry

This vigilantism has created a culture of fear among minorities who are engaged in the disposal of cow carcasses or who work in tanneries. This has also tarnished India’s image internationally as a lawless land where vigilante mobs can roam around dispensing justice. It does not help that the social justice minister Thawar Chand Gehlot had earlier said that cow protection groups are like other social organisations and that they should verify rumours before acting. They have no business doing any of this. This has to be left to the police. The apex court’s intervention will hopefully see a decline in the activities of these groups who seem to have become a law unto themselves.