NEW DELHI: The issue of killings in the name of cow protection reverberated in the Rajya Sabha today with the opposition creating noisy scenes after government said the states have all the powers to deal with such incidents and there was no need to change the existing law.
Samajwadi Party members came into the Well and raised slogans expressing dissatisfaction over the government's reply to questions regarding the steps taken by the Centre to stop such lynchings.
This led to brief adjournment of the House for 10 minutes during Question Hour, after Chairman Hamid Ansari urged members to allow other members to raise their questions.
Minister of State for Home affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said the states have the power to act against those behind such incidents while outrightly rejecting charges by SP member Naresh Agrawal that BJP men were behind such lynchings.
The Minister said the Union Home Ministry has already issued an advisory to all states for immediately registering FIRs in such cases and asked them to take action and arrest the culprits involved in such violent incidents.
He also said the Prime Minister has already spoken against such killings in the name of cow protection which will not be tolerated.
"I don't think there is a need to bring changes in the law," he said when asked by Congress member Digvijaya Singh if the government intended to bring changes in the existing law to curb such violence.
Ahir said 24 states and five union territories in the country have banned cow slaughter and only states of Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, besides UT of Lakshwadeep have not imposed any such ban.
The Minister informed that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not maintain separate data on cases of lynchings as only cases related to communal and religious tensions are recorded.
"For the first time, NCRB has started recording lynching incidents since 2014. In 2014, more such cases happened in states like Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, while in 2015 there were more incidents in states of Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
"In 2016, more such incidents took place in states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Except a state or two which are BJP-ruled, other states are non-BJP ruled," he said.
"It is not correct that BJP people are involved in this," he said, as he rejected the opposition charge.
Ahir also said that all states have acted against the culprits behind such killings and have sent complete information to the Centre, except West Bengal, on the action taken and added that the Centre is not going away from its duty.
"In Haryana, four people have been arrested, while three have been held in West Bengal, 30 persons in Jharkhand and four have been held in Maharashtra," he said, adding all states have acted and no culprits are roaming free.
"If anyone is not arrested, we will ask the states to take action...The Centre is not running away from fulfilling its duty and have asked states to send complete reports," Ahir said.
Raising the issue, Agrawal asked whether the Centre was aware of the killings that have taken place in the country in the name of cow vigilantism and sought the details of such incidents.
"'Police' and 'Public order' are state subjects uinder the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. The responsibilities to maintain law and order, protection of life and property rests primarily with the respective state governments.
"The state governments are competent to deal with such offences under the provisions of law. NCRB does not maintain data on lynching in the name of cow vigilantism," he said in a written reply.
Agrawal, however, said it was a matter of privilege as the Minister had provided wrong information that the NCRB does not maintain data on lynchings in name of cow vigilantism.
Majid Memon (NCP) said India's image internationally was being affected and said people abroad think that India is a country without the rule of law and because of communal disharmony and religious hatred is created.
He asked what the government was doing to stop these incidents as the Prime Minister's words have not stopped them and mere registration of FIR was not enough.
TMC member Sukhendu Shekhar Roy asked why was the NCRB not maintaining separate data on lynchings in name of cow protection.
As members expressed dissatisfaction over the Minister's reply, the SP members entered the Well saying they have not received an answer to their question and protested raising slogans like "killings in the name of cow protectionism will not be allowed".