The perception created over lynching of Muslims by Gau Rakshaks is hugely distorted. You get a sense that Muslims are stalked all over the country and it is better that they stay at home lest their skin is peeled off and bones mashed by marauding Hindus. A retired Director General Police of Odisha, a Muslim, would not visit me in Jharkhand because he apprehended he might not return alive. A Muslim IT professional, based in the US, is in a dilemma whether to send his children to India during the winter vacation. Lynching reminds the Amnesty International of ‘chilling marginalisation of minority’ and makes Martin Luther King III, the visiting US human rights activist, announce that Modi government has ‘unleashed ferocious animosity against the minority’. The purpose of the pseudo-secular activists, liberals and marginalised politicians seems to have been fully served. Today, India stands scared and ridiculed.
One needs to honestly reflect how much of the hysteria built around these incidents is justified. In the last 18 months, 63 cases of attacks against Muslims and Dalits by cow vigilantes have been reported from 13 states. Compare it with 73,000 cases of murder, kidnapping, robbery etc, and 13,000 cases of rape in the same period. Whether one lynches a cow-transporter, a beef-eater or commits a heinous crime, he is liable for punishment. A criminal has no religion. In all these cases, law did take its course and 118 Hindu perpetrators were arrested. So, why blame the BJP leadership for engineering lynching to divide the country on communal lines?
Another perception that was invidiously projected, concerned the Prime Minister, who was accused of deliberately keeping mum so that Gau Rakshaks could have a free run. And when he finally spoke, his message was dubbed empty. Surely, they know that the PM’s writ does not run in every household. He can agonise, but cannot prevent criminals from suddenly taking law in their hands.
The hecklers are setting a dangerous precedent for viewing criminality through the prism of religious and caste interests. Rather than treating Mohammad Akhlaq, Zahid Rasool Bhat, Mazlum Ansari, Pehlu Khan, Noman and Hafiz Junaid as victims of murder, they consider them as Muslim victims. The next logical step would be to point an accusing finger at the motive and efforts of the police, judges and governments if every killer is not punished—notwithstanding our national conviction rate, which is just around 23 per cent. So, if all lynching cases do not end up in conviction, get ready to hear from the likes of Digvijay Singh and Asaduddin Owaisi that Mohan Bhagwat and Modi botched those cases knowingly.
Most Hindus revere cow as their mother and have been demanding an end to all forms of cruelty to this sacred species. The Constitution has recognised their sentiment and several states have since banned cow slaughter. But the cruelty persists. The Central government recently tried to regulate slaughter of cows and sale of beef, but hell was let loose. Muslims, Christians, Dalits and liberated Hindus, including Brahmins, cried hoarse that Delhi could not decide what they should eat. To register protest, they organised beef festivals, ran public kitchen where they cooked beef, marched with a buffalo’s head, killed a cow and displayed it triumphantly. These were repulsive imageries and akin to savagery of lynching. In both cases, the hapless cows and defenceless Muslims were at the receiving end.
Others who opposed the beef ban, were those who run the $4.3 billion beef and $430 million leather industry. They feared losing their financial empire. Then we had 15 lakh employees, mostly Muslims, employed in this sector staring at imminent retrenchment. Mamata Banerjee, Pinarayi Vijayan and M K Stalin also joined the fray because they could not afford losing voters who consume beef and thrive on illegal cow trade. Once politics and business combined, the belief in the motherhood of cow had to take a back seat, albeit temporarily.
The need now is for restraint. Those who eat and trade in beef should understand that it hurts Hindus to see cows being slaughtered by hammer and electrical shocks, smuggled out of country in horrible ways, and butchered despite being healthy and productive. Cow protectors must also concede the right of others to eat and make profit out of beef in a pluralistic India. What the government and courts need to do is to clean up abattoirs, push them away from public gaze, regulate supply of animals to slaughter houses and create hygienic environment for beef and leather industries to operate. However, the best option, though impractical to follow in a country full of ruckus, would be for the politicians and activists to ponder and spare a thought for the cows.
Former special secretary, Research and Analysis Wing