September 20, 2016

India: curb cow vigilantes before things get out of control (Editorial, The Times of India, 19 sept 2016)

The Times of India, September 19, 2016

Sparking Conflict: Authorities must curb cow vigilantes before things get out of control

Editorials | Edit Page, India | TOI

Cow vigilantes have struck again, this time in the national capital. Two men were mercilessly thrashed while carrying buffalo remains, leading to a riot-like situation. Riots were averted thanks to the intervention of Ali Rukman, a local madrassa principal who happened to be the father-in-law of one of the victims. But wisdom may not prevail every time. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier 80% of so-called gau rakshaks are anti-socials. Lack of followup on his statement has been spectacular.

Indeed Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is swimming in the opposite direction. He said he doesn’t pay much attention to “small issues” like the Mewat gang rapes and murders, where the perpetrators said they were punishing the victims for allegedly eating beef. Even as his policemen fail in checking heinous crimes – they were clueless when the Jat riots broke out, bringing the state to its knees – they have gone on the astonishing mission of confiscating biryani samples around the time of Eid, on suspicion they might contain beef. Such petty harassment generates the atmosphere for cow vigilantes to flourish.

Some corrective action has been taken after the Una thrashing of Dalits, perhaps because BJP cares for the Dalit vote but not for the Muslim vote. But long-term national interest should not be drowned by cynical vote bank calculations, particularly for a party that claims to be more nationalist than others. It’s worth remembering that Kashmir’s troubles began around the time of last year’s Eid, when a beef ban was decreed in the state and a Kashmiri trucker lynched by cow vigilantes. It is under the NDA government’s watch that the cow vigilante problem has arisen. It is squarely BJP’s and NDA’s responsibility to end it now. Lawlessness cannot be allowed to prevail. Police must act firmly against cow vigilantes and politicians must stop providing them cover.