Vigilantes' free rein in BJP-ruled states

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s call for a nationwide law to ban cow slaughter has a special significance, coming as it does within a few days of the killing of a dairy farmer by vigilantes in Rajasthan’s Alwar district. The RSS’s view on cow slaughter is well known, and its chief has reiterated it with a greater sense of authority and power, noting that the organisation’s representatives in some state governments have already taken steps to bring the ban. Bhagwat called for abjuring violence and ‘obeying the law and the Constitution’ in the campaign for cow protection. Except for the general statement about violence, there was no specific mention or condemnation of the killing of a man, Pehlu Khan, who had bought a cow in Jaipur and was taking it to his home in Haryana. He had all necessary documents to show that he had bought the cow. But the self-appointed protectors of the cow tore the papers and beat him to death.

Bhagwat had no word to condemn the murder. Raja­sthan’s Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia has not said anything about the killing. The state home minister said both parties were at fault, though he has not said what the fault of the murdered man was. The police have filed FIRs against the men who were taking the cows home, but have not yet nabbed those who killed the man. Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi all but denied the incident in the Rajya Sabha. The violent and murderous trail of vigilantism is obvious as it runs from Dadri through Una to Alwar and it is clear that it has a free rein in BJP-ruled states.

The demands for extension of the ban on cow slaughter to all states, the refusal to take action against vigilantes even when they beat and kill people, increasing the punishment for cow killing — as Gujarat has done — and crackdowns on slaughter houses in UP and elsewhere have all sent out the unmistakeable message that the cow theme will be pursued relentlessly. The more aggressive it is, the better for the party. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh wants anyone guilty of cow slaughter to be hanged. A Union minister, Mahesh Sharma, praises a man who was accused of killing Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri. The words, actions and responses of those in power and authority, have only created an environment conducive to vigilante action. Everyone from Bhagwat and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the common vigilante is committed in the same degree to the cow. In this milieu, the warnings against excesses and violation of the law do not sound genuine and sincere.

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