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Gau rakshaks on the rise: MP mob targets Muslim women over beef rumour, 26th attack this year

The attack on the two women in the town of Mandsaur in western Madhya Pradesh was the 26th in 118 days since 55-year-old Pehlu Khan died after a mob attack on April 1, 2017, bringing the count to 26 cases of cow-related violence in seven months this year.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2017 22:58 IST
Indiaspend, New Delhi
Beef ban,Hate crimes,Cow
Traffic moves slowly as a group of stray bulls walk on a road in New Delhi.(REUTERS File)

The video shows two Muslim women being slapped, kicked and abused for nearly half an hour by a mob of cow vigilantes, as police stand by. “Gau mata ki jai! (hail mother cow),” the attackers scream, as onlookers–one of whom filmed the video–watch but do not intervene.

After the attack, reported by NDTV on July 27, 2017, the two women were arrested on suspicion of carrying beef, which is banned. The police later said it was buffalo meat, carrying which is not banned. The women were charged for trading meat without a permit. No action was taken against the attackers, the report said.

The attack on the two women in the town of Mandsaur in western Madhya Pradesh was the 26th in 118 days since 55-year-old Pehlu Khan died after a mob attack on April 1, 2017, bringing the count to 26 cases of cow-related violence in seven months this year, the most in eight years, according to an IndiaSpend database that records such violence in India. We have now recorded as many as 70 cases of cow-related violence over eight years.

Created through a collection and content analysis of reports in the English media–which tend to have the greatest spread of national news–the database shows that 97% (68 of 70) of such incidents were reported after the National Democratic Alliance government came to power in May 2014. More than half or 54% of the cow-related violence–38 of 70 cases–were from states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), when the attacks were reported, revealed our analysis of violence recorded until July 27, 2017.

The data show that Muslims were the target of 51% (36 of 70) cases of violence centred on bovine issues over nearly eight years (2010 to 2017) and comprised 86% (24 of 28) killed in 70 incidents.

As least 136 people were also injured in these attacks, and more than half (54%) of these attacks were based on rumours, our analysis of the IndiaSpend database revealed.

Despite the increase in violence related to bovine issues, particularly over the last three years, the ministry of home affairs does not collect data on lynchings, said this government statement to the Lok Sabha (parliament’s lower house) on July 25, 2017.

National or state crime data do not distinguish general violence from cow-related attacks and lynchings, so the IndiaSpend database is the first such statistical perspective to a growing national debate over such violence.

In nearly half the attacks (49%), police register cases against victims

Of 70 attacks over eight years, 68 (97%) occurred, as we said, since 2014, with most of those taking place within the first seven months of 2017. The year 2016 reported the second-most cases of cow-related violence at 25 incidents, as IndiaSpend reported in June, 2017.

In nearly half or 49% (34 attacks) of cases reported, police registered cases against victims/survivors–as they did in Mandsaur–an analysis of our cow-related-violence database revealed.

The police response to the mob in Mandsaur is contrary to the Prime Minister’s recent rhetoric against violence perpetrated in the name of cow protection.

On June 29, 2017, a day after protests in Indian cities, London and New York against the government’s slow response and silence after nationwide attacks against mostly Muslims and Dalits, Modi, speaking at the centenary celebrations of Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, said:

“Killing people in the name of gau bhakti (cow worship) is unacceptable. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve of.”

“No one has the right to take law into his/her hands. We belong to a land of non-violence. Violence is not the solution to any problem.”

“No one spoke about protecting cows more than Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinobha Bhave. Yes it should be done,” the prime minister said. He ended the statement saying, “Let’s all work together. Let’s create an India our freedom fighters would be proud of.

A day before the start of the monsoon session in Parliament on July 15, 2017, the prime minister, at an all-India meeting of the BJP, once again criticised cow vigilantes and put the onus on state governments to stringently act against them. He said :

“We believe cow is our mother, she is tied to people’s emotions. But it must be understood that there are laws to protect cows and there is no option to break it,” the prime minister tweeted on July 16, 2017.

“In the name of cow-protection, some anti-social elements are trying to spread chaos. People are taking advantage of this to spoil the fraternal spirit of this country.”

“This is impacting the country’s image. State governments should take strict action against such anti-social elements.”

Offences promoting enmity between different groups up 41% over last 3 years

As many as 1,235 cases related to offences promoting enmity between different groups–under section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, etc.) and 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the Indian Penal Code–were reported during 2014-16, according to a July 25, 2017 Lok Sabha reply to a question on lynchings.

“[Under sections 153A and 153B of the Indian Penal Code] the National Crime Records Bureau [NCRB] maintains data on offences promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth etc… However, it does not maintain data on cases relating to cow ‘vigilantes’, cow trade and trafficking,” Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, minister of state for the home ministry, told the Lok Sabha in his reply.

“Offences promoting enmity between different groups” increased 41% over three years to 2016, rising from 336 to 475. Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s most-populous state, reported the most (202) cases, registering a 346% increase, from 26 in 2014 to 116 in 2016. UP was followed by Kerala (151), Karnataka (114), Telangana (104) and Maharashtra (103), among the top five states, over three years.

Cases in Uttarakhand increased at the greatest rate nationwide, 450%, from four in 2014 to 22 in 2016.

The government also said that there is no proposal to promulgate a law against lynching.

With mob violence in the name of cow protection rising, the National Campaign Against Mob Lynching, a committee of civil society members, has proposed a new law. The Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA) suggests no bail for those accused of mob lynching, life imprisonment for those convicted and immediate suspension of the concerned station house officer. An online petition demanding MASUKA has received over 34,000 signatures.

First Published: Jul 29, 2017 10:37 IST