August 14, 2016

India: Hoof-and-horn hour - Cow test-firing from Togadia shoulder (Radhika Ramaseshan)

The Telegraph - August 14, 2016

New Delhi, Aug. 13: Pravin Togadia, who has a history of run-ins with Narendra Modi, today targeted the Prime Minister in the capital and accused him of “victimising and humiliating” saviours of the cow.

Modi as well as the RSS have been at pains to pacify Dalits after a flogging of four youths by cow vigilantes spun out of control and triggered a wider backlash with ramifications for next year’s Uttar Pradesh elections.

Togadia said he had been “compelled” to speak up because “sadhus and sants (had) wept” over Modi’s address; because a “92-year-old woman from Bihar’s Chhapra told me there would be no cows left in India” and because professionals of all hues “from lawyers and chartered accountants to industrialists” had harangued him for keeping mum.

Togadia is the international working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. However, the Parishad itself has been lying low since Modi cut it to size in Gujarat.

Sources suggested that Togadia might be articulating the concerns of a section of the Sangh that feels the hawkish elements among the foot soldiers must be reassured that their pet themes are not being abandoned.

“It could be the copybook good-cop-bad-cop tactic. The Sangh officially supports Modi’s view but uses mavericks like Togadia to keep the loony elements in good humour,” a source said.

Several of the statements Togadia made today were in keeping with his rabble-rousing reputation but one appeared to strike a chord among some Sangh leaders.

“For you (the Prime Minister), 80 per cent of the cow protectors are criminals, fraudsters and sinners because they are Hindus,” he said.

Modi had told a townhall-style meeting a week ago that he was “very angry” with criminals masquerading as cow protectors and asked state governments to draw up dossiers on them because “70 to 80 per cent of them” were “anti-social elements”. Some Sangh leaders later said in private that the figure appeared too sweeping and unrealistic.


Togadia insinuated that Modi had lied when he claimed that “80 per cent” of those who called themselves “gau rakshaks” were tricksters and criminals who ran lucrative trades in the name of cow protection.

“Prime Ministerji, you have made a serious allegation against cow protectors. Where is the proof? If you have the proof, please disclose…. Cows are slaughtered by butchers and you said most of them die by choking on plastic. You have absolved the butchers of a serious crime. I do not wish to say the PM is lying because he is also my PM. But I spoke to several state governments after his speech and none of them said they provided any information to him. So it is the PM’s duty to reveal his data sources,” Togadia, who described Modi as a “childhood friend”, said.

They fell out irreparably when Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister.

For Modi, Togadia’s offensive was an Atal Bihari Vajpayee moment, except that the VHP — the first Sangh constituent to endorse Modi as the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister — had allowed him an extended honeymoon.

Togadia had accused both Vajpayee and L.K. Advani of being “inebriated with power” after Vajpayee talked to Pakistan and Advani allegedly did nothing for the Ayodhya temple.

The VHP leader, however, dodged the question why he had chosen to lash out at Modi after the RSS had endorsed his statements against the so-called cow protectors. “I spoke out and very responsibly too,” he said.

Togadia was ambivalent on the July 11 assault on Dalits in Una, Gujarat, for skinning a dead cow. “Cow protection is an emotional issue. But we are equally committed to protecting the dignity and security of the Scheduled Castes. Why did the Prime Minister link cow slaughter to the oppression of the SCs? The Prime Minister has divided Hindus: this never happened in India,” he said.

Togadia demanded that Modi withdraw his speech, set up a 24x7 “cow protection helpline” in the Prime Minister’s Office to save cows from being slaughtered or smuggled, and ban beef exports.

Manmohan Vaidya, the Nagpur-based RSS spokesperson, refused to take calls.

BJP spokesperson and national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said: “What the PM stated, the nation should follow.”