July 01, 2017

Walk the talk: Modi’s remarks on cow vigilantism need to backed by action (Editorial - The Hindu)

The Hindu, July 01, 2017


Narendra Modi’s remarks on cow vigilantism are pointless, unless backed by action

While it is impossible to fault Prime Minister Narendra Modi for speaking up against killing in the name of cow protection, it is equally impossible to be convinced about its earnestness and efficacy. His remarks at an event in Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram have come at a time when there is a groundswell of popular revulsion about violent, even murderous, cow vigilantism, leaving the unfortunate impression that it was but a response to public pressure. The #NotInMyName movement, which began with a Facebook invitation to participate in a protest in Delhi, had assumed viral dimensions, with other cities in India and elsewhere in the world organising or planning to organise similar events. What began as a somewhat limited mobilisation to campaign against lynching morphed into a broader movement involving all communities against state apathy to the phenomenon. The timing is not the only thing that gives rise to scepticism about Mr. Modi’s observations about cow vigilantism. Frequency is the other issue. A phenomenon that has wreaked violence, affected livelihoods, and created insecurities over the last couple of years — all of which have been compounded by a mischievous and hugely flawed order to regulate cattle sale — is deserving of a more muscular and frequent response. More importantly, it needs to be coupled with tangible action on the ground.

One of the contradictions that Mr. Modi must square up to as well as grapple with is that, by and large, aggressive cow vigilantes who take the law into their own hands are members or sympathisers of one or the other organisations of the Sangh Parivar, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s extended family. Given this, words are simply not enough — unaccompanied by strong corroborative action, they only serve to perpetuate the lie that the top is either totally divorced from the distasteful happenings at the bottom or that it doesn’t have the means to control it. It is true that as Prime Minister, Mr. Modi has no direct control over law and order, which is a State subject. But as the BJP’s most popular leader, one who has no real rivals in the party, he must wield his influence and power to crack down on those who indulge in violence in the name of cow protection. In the absence of this, Mr Modi’s remarks may constitute nothing more than a mild reprimand. There is no denying that speech is better than silence and his remarks may help sharpen the focus on how determined governments are to uphold the rule of law — firmly, decisively, and in a manner that deters cow vigilantism. Any politician worth his salt knows there is Condemnation and there is condemnation. Mr. Modi should show us that he hasn’t used the small c.