Why lynchings will continue despite PM Modi's warning to gau rakshaks

There is no reason to believe his condemnation will have a positive effect to stop the trend of mass killings.

 |  6-minute read |   30-06-2017
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The prime minister’s condemnation of the lynching incidents over matters of bovine issues is too little and has come too late.

Well, one knows the risk in associating the PM with too little and too late motive. One can argue with abundant reason that any strong disapproval of killings may be late, but it’s better than never. And less is better than nothing.

Yet, PM Modi must bear the responsibility of doing too little and speaking too late to prevent the killings in the name of cow. It’s because it’s not the first time Modi has spoken against cow vigilantes and gau rakshaks.

But despite his condemnation, incidents of lynching have increased. There is no reason to believe his condemnation will have a positive effect to stop the trend of mass killings.

Within hours of Modi’s condemnation, another Muslim, Alimuddin alias Asgar Ansari, was lynched on suspicion of carrying beef in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district. He was allegedly carrying “banned meat” when he was stopped by a group of people and beaten to death.  

Additional director general of police RK Mallik was later quoted saying that it was a case of “premeditated murder” implying that it wasn’t the handiwork of cow vigilantes. He said Asgar was “charge-sheeted for child abduction and murder and some people involved in beef trade hatched a conspiracy to kill him".

Be that as it may, the tragic saga of beef took one more life even as the prime minister expressed his "anger and anguish" over vigilante killings.

Modi didn’t name anybody but in apparent reference to Junaid Khan, who was killed on a train on the eve of Eid, he invoked Mahatma Gandhi and said killing in the name of cow worship pained him.

lynch_063017011454.jpgOne can’t be faulted for assuming that Modi’s condemnation of killings in the name of cow is just a lip service. (Pitcure for representational purpose)

Last year in August, he had spoken too after a spate of attacks by cow vigilantes on Dalits and Muslims were reported from difference parts of the country.

Here is what Modi had said at a meeting in Telangana: “It makes me angry that people are running shops in the name of cow protection… Some people indulge in anti-social activities at night, and in the day masquerade as cow protectors.”

He had asked state governments to prepare dossier on the so-called cow protectors as 80 per cent of them were involved in illegal activities during the night and they became gau rakshaks during the day.

His exhortations against the criminals who had turned cow protectors had no impact. No state government has prepared dossier of self-styled gau rakshaks. There is no surveillance and there are no preventive arrests. 

Did the Ministry of Home Affairs send directives to state governments as a follow-up measure of what Modi had said? No.

One can’t be faulted, therefore, for assuming that Modi’s condemnation of killings in the name of cow is just a lip service.

Evidently, Modi seems to have been rattled by the spontaneous protests #NotInMyName held in over 10 cities across the country against lynching in the name of cow.

Why has he reacted to #NotInMyName campaign? Modi is not wont to respond to criticisms, street protests and demonstrations aimed at his government and the party.

He chooses his own timings and occasions to speak on issues that agitate the people including incidents as heinous and preposterous to jolt one’s conscience as mass lynching and mob violence. 

Just to remind Modi did speak against the lynching of Akhlaq over beef in a Dadri village. He did speak against suicide of Rohit Vemullah. But his response came many months after the tragedies were reported. He maintained a studied silence despite political parties pressing him to speak in discharge of his responsibility as prime minister.

I would hazard a guess that Modi is more rattled by #NotInMyName getting international traction on social media through Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter than the prick of his conscience. He knows the role and power of social media to mobilise and galvanise public opinion. Already the #NotInMyName campaign has evoked response in London, Paris and many other international capitals. International media has reported on the protests triggered by filmmaker Saba Dewan’s Facebook post.

Back from three-nation tour of Portugal, US and the Netherlands, Modi will soon be travelling to attend the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany. 

I would also like to believe that Modi might have to face protests by NGOs and civil society organisations if the #NotInMyName campaign catches up with him in Germany.

He wouldn’t like to face human rights activists in the presence of European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Prime Minister Justine Trudeau.

For it’s not a secret that Modi is an acutely image-conscious person. He knows that unlike President Donald Trump of the US, the European leaders are sticky about protection of human rights and minority rights issues. Any small demonstration at the G20 meet venue in Hamburg may cause huge embarrassment to Modi.

Having spoken about the lynching incidents, Modi would have a face to save if Merkel and Macron get an opportunity to raise the issues in any informal interactions with him on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ meeting. And also if the international media gets an opportunity to accost him there.

Hence, his reaction to the lynching and murder of people, especially the minority Muslim in the name of cow is more of a calculated political response. It’s more of a face-saving rhetoric rather than expression of anger and voice of conscience.

If he is indeed angry and anguished over the spate of killings, he must direct home minister Rajnath Singh to follow up the issue with state governments. Although law and order is a state subject, the Centre is well within its power to issue directives.

Moreover, the BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Assam can be directed by the party to prevent such incidents and show visible results.

After Modi’s speech, there might be a lull in incidents of mass lynching. But how can such incidents stop so long the BJP, the RSS and assorted Hindutva organisations put more value on the protection of cow than human lives?

How can lynching be prevented so long violence is pursued as an ideology to force minorities into submission?

Also read: Modi's reprimand to gau rakshaks in the name of Gandhi is as clichéd as Gandhi

Writer

Ashok K Singh Ashok K Singh @kashoksingh

He is a journalist, writer and commentator.

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