Do not support cow vigilantism, states must act: Modi govt tells Supreme Court
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Do not support cow vigilantism, states must act: Modi govt tells Supreme Court

Supreme Court asks Centre and states not to protect any kind of vigilantism and sought their response on violent incidents related to cow protection across the country.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2017 13:08 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
gau rakshaks,gaurakshaks,cow protection groups
Volunteers of a vigilante group, Gau Raksha Dal, patrol a highway to intercept suspected cattle smugglers, in Taranagar, Rajasthan. (AFP file photo)

The government does not support cow vigilantism and it was for the states to crack down on such self-styled groups, the country’s top law officer told the Supreme Court on Friday.

Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Centre, said law and order was a state subject and it was up to them to curb such incidents.

The government’s response was to a petition filed by social activist Tehseen Poonawala seeking direction to the Centre and some states to take action against so-called gau rakhasks, who profess to protect cows, an animal considered sacred by a section of Hindus.

It came weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned a spate of violence across India linked to the cow, saying killing in the name of cow worship was not acceptable.

“You say that law and order is a state subject and states are taking actions as per law. You don’t protect any kind of vigilantism,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.

It also sought the assistance of the Centre and states for removing violent content related to cow vigilantism uploaded on social media.

Counsels appearing for BJP-ruled Gujarat and Jharkhand informed the court that appropriate action has been taken against those involved in violent activities related to cow vigilantism.

The bench recorded their submission and asked the Centre and other states to file their report regarding to the violent incidents in four weeks time and posted the matter for further hearing on September 6.

The apex court had on April 7 sought the response of six states on the plea, filed on October 21 last year, seeking action against cow vigilantes who were allegedly indulging in violence and committing atrocities against Dalits and minorities.

In his plea, Poonawalla said violence committed by gau rakshaks have reached such proportions that even Modi had declared them as people who were “destroying the society”.

The plea also said they needed to be “regulated and banned in the interest of social harmony, public morality and law and order in the country”.

“The menace caused by the so-called cow protection groups is spreading fast to every nook and corner of the country and is creating disharmony among various communities and castes,” the petition said.

Modi’s outburst last month was the second time in two years against gau rakshaks, who have gained in strength in recent years and have attacked and killed several people on charges of cow smuggling or slaughter, mostly Dalits and Muslims.

However, such attacks have continued even after Modi’s warning. Opposition parties and critics say that the BJP-led government at the Centre has done little to rein in the vigilante groups.

Critics also accuse the Sangh Parivar of tacitly backing the vigilante groups.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat had earlier defended the cow-protection groups, saying these “law-abiding good people” perform an important role and they shouldn’t be confused with self-styled, motivated vigilantes.

Bhagwat said the government should distinguish between anti-social elements and “law-abiding citizens” who were upholding the law — seen as a reference to the fact that cow slaughter is banned in most states in India.

First Published: Jul 21, 2017 13:08 IST