Bhagwat’s support for cow vigilantes will only embolden them further
Cow protection has today evolved into a racket aimed at harassment and often extortion. The Dalits had gone on a massive protest against this earlier, refusing to deal with cow carcasses and organising themselves across statesUpdated: Oct 12, 2016 18:41 IST
The ardour of cow protection enthusiasts had cooled a bit after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came out strongly against the vigilantism they were indulging in. But they are likely to get a new lease of life with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat speaking on the issue on the organisation’s foundation day recently. “Cow protectors perform an important role and it’s important to distinguish between those who protect the cow and others who are self-appointed,” he said during his speech in Nagpur.
The so-called protectors are not given to subtle nuances of who is self-appointed or not. Mr Bhagwat need not have sought to make any distinctions here as the states which ban cow slaughter have rules in place to guard against any illegality. The plethora of gau rakshaks which have sprung up have no role in policing, which they often do under guise of protecting the cow. So far this year, at least three people have been killed and several others injured by cow vigilantes on suspicion of possessing beef or cattle rustling.
Dalits who have traditionally disposed of cow carcasses have borne the brunt of the depredations of the gau rakshaks with horrific incidents of people being stripped, tied to jeeps and dragged around. The Mohammed Ikhlaq case was perhaps the most horrific in which cow vigilantes entered his home on the suspicion that he had beef in his fridge and beat him to death. While Mr Bhagwat has said that the cow protectors must operate within the law, he must surely know that, given past example, this will be taken as licence to harass people.
Earlier in Haryana, biryani sellers were at the receiving end of this zeal during Eid because the state in its pursuit of cow protection conducted checks on their wares suspecting them of selling beef. Unable to bear the harassment, many vendors chose to shut shop during that period incurring losses. If Mr Bhagwat meant that these rakshaks must undertake the care of cows in gaushalas, he should have made that clear. But he did not.
Cow protection has today evolved into a racket aimed at harassment and often extortion. The Dalits had gone on a massive protest against this earlier, refusing to deal with cow carcasses and organising themselves across states. The lack of political support as enunciated by the prime minister had forced gau rakshaks onto the backfoot. The cow protectors not only created a fear psychosis among the minorities and Dalits but also gave India a bad name internationally as an intolerant country. The government must be vigilant that they don’t overstep their limits again and attack innocent people.