Cow vigilantism, threat to rule of law

Cow vigilantism is taking different and vicious forms in the country and is spreading to more areas, mainly in the northern states, while increasingly posing a grave threat to the rule of law, the rights of citizens and social and community relations. A few days after a man transporting a cow he had legally bought for his farm was killed by a mob in Alwar in Rajasthan, members of a nomadic family, including a nine-year-old girl, were attacked in Reasi district in Jammu and Kashmir on the suspicion that they were smuggling cows. Some of them were seriously injured. These lawless actions have taken place not just in some remote parts of the country. Nearly a fortnight ago, South Delhi witnessed an atrocity when three men transporting buffaloes were attacked and beaten up near a police station. The police was on the side of the attackers. The victims were charged with cruelty to animals while the attackers were “unknown persons.”

The governments, at the Centre and in states, and law enforcement officials at all levels have to take the blame for the mayhem and the criminal actions. It should be noted that these have taken place only in BJP-ruled states. Leaders of the BJP and the RSS, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhag-wat, have said vigilantism is unacceptable. But such statements sound insincere and duplicitous alongside repeated assertions of the sacredness of the cow and calls for gau raksha. The message that goes out is that vigilantism is right and will be tolerated. No action is taken against the marauders who take the law in their hands and attack people. BJP leaders including ministers have praised and protected the attackers. Sadhvi Kamal, a gau raksha samiti activist, compared an Alwar attacker to Bhagat Singh. The attacks are not condemned by the top functionaries of the states. In fact, the official campaign against slaughter houses in UP has legitimised illegal actions in support of gau raksha.

It is because the political environment in these states is conducive and supportive of any hooliganism in the name of cow protection that these illegalities are thriving. The protection of the cow is the motto in public and the real targets are the minorities and sometimes the Dalits. Vigilantism, which threatens the rights and freedoms and the livelihood of people, cannot be accepted in a society that values the rule of law. What is of greater concern is that it has the tacit backing of these governments from top to bottom. The story from Dadri to Delhi is the same, even when the scripts are different, and it is not good for the country.

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