Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rather strongly worded message against gauraksha violence—that the Centre has directed the states to take strictest action against ‘anti-social’ elements lynching/killing people in the name of the cow—was the third such statement from him. This criticism has many connotations. It helps preemptively blunt the Opposition attack the government is expected to face on the issue in the monsoon session. The all-party meet at which he made it underscored that it was a response of the entire political spectrum—this was not an issue on which political parties could be divided.
In short, the condemnation helps the PM appear on the same page with other parties. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar’s paraphrasing of the PM’s statement was no less significant. The PM, he noted, disapproved of “attempts to give communal colour to cow vigilantism and other incidents’’. The suggestion here being, there is a lack of clarity on whether people were acting out of personal enmity under the garb of gauraksha. Modi was none too pleased with the mapping of cow vigilantism onto a picture of majoritarian violence by those who took to the streets to protest. For good measure, anticipating Opposition barbs, he also let it be known that law and order is a state subject.
Once the political dust settles (if it does), maybe the Centre would do well to build on the heightened religious sentiments aroused in the name of the cow and channelise the devotion into positive actions—a rational, context-sensitive, rooted form of modernisation of cattle-rearing is much needed. Our animal husbandry sector has to be rescued from both medieval and hard-modernist 20th century practices. Nothing could be better than stepping up investment with a special focus on nurturing native breeds, not just as a showpiece of culture renaissance but as an ecologically aware policy. Those trying to communalise the issue may be gainfully re-employed looking after the thousands of old strays.