July 01, 2017

Crack down hard: PM’s anti-lynching remarks must be followed up (Editorial, The Times of India)

The Times of India, July 1, 2017


Speaking out against lynchings, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did well to assert that nobody has the right to take the law into his own hands and that indulging in violence in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ is against the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. The stern warning is timely as it comes on the heels of a Muslim teenager being brutally murdered on a train in Ballabgarh after he was accused of carrying beef. The evidence suggests that incidents of lynching and assault by cow vigilantes have gone up sharply across the country since NDA took office in 2014.

It highlights the gravity of the situation that even as Modi was making his remarks, a meat trader in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district was lynched by a mob for allegedly transporting ‘prohibited meat’. Plus, this isn’t the first time that Modi has spoken against cow vigilantes – he had made similar remarks last year after the flogging of Dalit youths in Gujarat’s Una. But little has changed on the ground. Cow vigilantes feel emboldened under the BJP dispensation and view the police as lenient towards them.

This perception needs to be broken. First, Modi should speak against cow vigilantism repeatedly – even make it a subject of his Mann ki Baat address – to drive home his point. Second, a zero tolerance policy needs to be adopted towards lynching. Police action like that in Jharkhand’s Giridih district – where 15 policemen managed to hold off a mob of thousands to rescue a dairy farmer who was attacked because the carcass of a cow was found outside his house – should be publicly extolled. Lastly, draconian anti-cow slaughter laws brought in since 2014 need to be revised. They have become like Pakistan’s blasphemy laws which trigger violence by their extreme nature. Otherwise, BJP’s development agenda risks being hijacked by the radical fringe.