Growing public outrage over cow vigilantism seems to have forced the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to do a rethink on its strategy to save the bovine. The Sangh wants its cow protection programme to be linked with “cultural, health and scientific reasons”, and not defined by violence.Senior functionaries of the Sangh told Hindustan Times that though it wants pan-India prohibition on cow slaughter, it does not want “fringe elements hijacking the issue of gau raksha”. It was in this context that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat denounced violence in the name of gau raksha at a function in the national capital on Sunday.Bhagwat said that violence by cow protectors “defames” the efforts of cow protection. “Nothing should be done while protecting cows that hurts the belief of some people. Nothing should be done that is violent... The work of cow conservation should be carried out while obeying laws and the Constitution.”The Sangh’s political opponents accuse it of adopting a sledgehammer strategy to enforce a ban. It is also accused of diluting its aggression on the beef consumption issue in Kerala and some North Eastern states, where its ideological protégé – the BJP – has political ambitions. The Sangh’s opposition to bovine slaughter and consumption is perceived as its “anti-minority” standpoint, given that most people engaged in the trade are Muslims.“There has to be a social initiative for gau samvardhan (cow protection), it is not just protection but also nurturing. Having a law (against slaughter) will help. The importance of Indian breeds for health reasons is now recognised globally and many countries are importing them. Cows need to be protected for health, economic and ecological reasons,” Manmohan Vaidya, chief spokesperson of the RSS, told HT.As part of its course-changing process, the Sangh has toned down its rhetoric without deviating from its position. This is in contrast to its past stand, when it criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for dubbing a majority of cow protectors as criminals.