Cops finished what vigilantes started

Cops finished what vigilantes started

Rakbar Khan

Another case of lynching, reported this week, may be one more sign of a terrible new normal of hatred and impunity coming to prevail in the country. The victim is again a Muslim cattle owner, the killers are from a self-appointed cow protection brigade and the killings took place in Alwar in BJP-ruled Rajasthan. The victim was Rakbar Khan this time; a year ago, Pehlu Khan had been killed similarly in Alwar. It is deeply worrying that the count of such killings keeps rising, not only in Rajasthan but in other states, too, where the BJP is in power. In no state has police taken the crime seriously, investigated it and tried to bring the culprits to book. Indeed, in most cases, charges have been framed against the victims of attacks, too. The Alwar police went a step further. The policemen there first took the cows to a shelter, and then shifted the victim to the police station where he was again beaten, according to one account. Rakbar Khan was dead by the time he was taken to a hospital. The policemen either let him die or, killed him. They are complicit in the murder and are as much guilty of it as those who attacked him. They must also be booked and brought to justice, along with the attackers.  

But this is unlikely to happen. A bystander heard the attackers boasting that they had the support of the local BJP MLA. It is the climate of impunity created by the BJP’s leaders and ministers that has produced the marauding ‘gau rakshaks’ and encouraged them to attack and kill. It started with Union minister Mahesh Sharma draping the body of an accused in the 2015 Dadri killing case with the national flag. Other accused in that case were offered jobs in a central government undertaking. Last month, another minister, Jayant Sinha, felicitated seven people convicted in a lynching case. The messages sent out by these actions are clear. 

The cow protection slogan is actually used to polarise society and is directed against Muslims and Dalits. It will not go unnoticed that there is no sympathy for the victims and their families from the ministers and ruling party leaders who continue to justify cow vigilantism and make insensitive statements. There are attempts to rationalise and justify the attacks and to counter critics by indulging in whataboutery over past incidents. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hardly spoken about the killings. When he did, it was only in ambiguous terms. Neither the Supreme Court’s directives nor the new GoM’s suggestions will have any impact as long as there is a political climate conducive to vigilantism and there is political support for the vigilantes.

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