Gau raksha and the lynch mobs

Published: July 3, 2017
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP The writer is the editor and translator of Why I write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto, published by Westland in 2014. He is executive director of Amnesty International India. The views expressed here are his own. 
aakar.patel@tribune.com.pk

Is gau rakshak violence a problem in India? If so, what can be done to solve it?

The non-profit data journalism website IndiaSpend has reported that 97 per cent of gau raksha violence happened after Modi’s government came to power. Once the BJP-led union and state governments began to push for a beef ban, the murders started. The facts are quite clear. Let’s look at what happened across India in the last few weeks.

Jharkhand, June 29th: Trader Alimuddin Ansari was killed after being assaulted by a mob hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he opposed the violence.

Jharkhand, June 27th: Dairy farmer Usman Ansari was beaten up by 100-strong mob and part of his house was set on fire, reportedly after a dead cow was seen outside his house. The attackers also threw stones at the police officials, injuring 50.

West Bengal, June 24th: Three Muslim construction workers were beaten to death by a mob, allegedly for stealing cows. Three people arrested so far and a murder case registered.

Haryana, June 22nd: Fifteen-year-old Junaid Khan was stabbed to death inside a train. According to survivors, at least 20 people were involved in the attack. The police arrested one.

Maharashtra, May 26th: Two Muslim meat traders were attacked by a cow vigilante squad on suspicion of possessing beef. Video footage of the incident showed the men were slapped, abused and forced to say “Jai Sri Ram”. Nine men have been arrested. However, the traders also face criminal charges for “outraging religious feelings”.

Assam, April 30th: Two Muslim men were lynched by a mob on suspicion of cow theft. A murder case has been registered but none yet arrested.

Rajasthan, April 1st: Five Muslim men were assaulted by a mob and one died two days later. The mob falsely accused them of being cow smugglers. Following the killing, the home minister of Rajasthan, in a statement that appeared to justify the killing, said Khan belonged to a family of cow smugglers. Three people have been arrested.

Following the Jharkhand lynching of June 27th, Indians rallied across the country to say these killings are happening under government protection and should be stopped. Modi tweeted a couple of days later: “There is no place for violence in India. Let us create an India that would make Gandhi Ji proud.” It has a two minutes and 16 seconds long video attached. A speech on cow slaughter Modi gave in Gujarat on June 29th. One minute and 45 seconds of it is on Modi praising gau raksha. In the last 30 seconds he speaks about violence but only that killing is unacceptable. Of course it is and we don’t need the premier to tell us that, but instead why is it happening and what will he do to stop it. The problem can be understood in the priorities revealed in the video.

As long as Modi and the BJP will push gau raksha, India will produce gau rakshaks. But there is another problem: their refusal to accept that their actions have a communal angle. Meat and leather are the occupations of Muslims and Dalits. These are the communities that became vulnerable because of gau raksha and to deny that is hypocrisy.

After the latest killing in Jharkhand, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said it should not be linked to religion. But the data proves Naidu wrong. It is linked to religion if it is only, or mainly, Muslims that are assaulted and murdered by the gau raksha pogrom.

The Congress doesn’t have a real position on this and it has spoken out in favour of gau raksha in Gujarat. Individuals in the party have attacked the government. After Modi’s speech, former Union Minister P Chidambaram said “on a day when PM warned gau rakshaks, Alimuddun was lynched. Obviously, lynch mobs don’t fear the PM.” He added “the PM warned gau rakshaks and lynch mobs. Good. Let him tell the country how he will enforce his writ.”

According to IndiaSpend, 25 attacks happened in 2016. In 2017, already 21 attacks have taken place within six months. The problem is escalating and the whole world is waiting to see how Modi will put an end to it.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2017.

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