Will gau rakshaks actually listen to Modi?

If law had acted against intolerance, the vigilantes would never feel emboldened.

 |  4-minute read |   07-08-2016
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The ongoing Dalit rebellion, ignited by the brutal flogging of members of the community by purported gau rakshaks has become a national issue. It is sending ripples not only in election-bound Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP faces a litmus test, but also in Gujarat - the jewel in Modi's crown - which too will go to polls in 2017.

As the BJP struggles to contain the crisis, cow vigilantes have gone berserk, fuelling the Dalit unrest.

Exactly 27 days after the Una incident in Gujarat, when four Dalits were stripped and flogged for skinning dead cows, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on cow vigilantes.

He came down heavily on such vigilantism and said the overwhelming majority of "gau rakshaks" were actually anti-social elements engaged in dubious activities, who have proclaimed themselves to be protectors of cows to cover up their misdeeds.

The prime minister also asked state governments to prepare dossiers naming the swayam sevis.

This is first time Narendra Modi has spoken on the rising incidents of cow vigilantism that have provoked allegations from the opposition that the BJP is encouraging such bullies.

This is also the strongest comment by any saffron leader on the controversy. The acts of gau rakshaks seem to have upset PM Modi. His expression, "Mujhey itna gussa ata hai (I feel so angry)" suggests he is containing his anger with a lot of difficulty. But will his anger translate into action?

Will it stop gau rakshaks from going on a rampage?

Can Dalits and Muslims heave a sigh of relief now that the PM has done some tough talking?

This is not the first time the PM has spoken against communal or caste-based violence.

Less than three months after taking over as PM, addressing the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort, Modi called for a 10-year moratorium on caste and communal violence.

This was in an apparent reference to few communal incidents in some parts of the country. But it has had no impact whatsoever on anybody. Issues such as Ghar wapsi, love jihad, cow protection and Muslim bashing are assume different shapes and dimensions.

The prime minister's call for a 10-year moratorium has gone for a toss. Not only has it been flagrantly ignored by various outfits of Sangh Parivar, but also been violated with impunity by Narendra Modi's ministers and BJP's MPs themselves.

During the Bihar Assembly elections, PM Narendra Modi broke his silence on the Dadri incident, exhorting Hindus and Muslims fight poverty together, rather than fighting one another.

The PM invoked President Pranab Mukherjee's speech, which emphasised "tolerance" and "plurality" as India's core values in reference to the lynching of a Muslim man over rumours of beef eating.

At the time, the prime minister also said, "Some small-time politicians are hell-bent on making irresponsible statements for their political interests... Such statements should end... I want to urge people not to pay attention to such statements, even if Narendra Modi himself says."

This hasn't deterred loose canons from his party or his Parivar. They hardly miss an opportunity to comment on communal issues.

Four days after his Bihar speech, Narendra Modi again spoke on the Dadri murder and the cancellation of Pakistani Ghazal singer Ghulam Ali's concert. Speaking to Anand Bazar Patrika, he said that while incidents like Dadri and the cancellation of Ghulam Ali's concert in Mumbai are "sad", the Centre has no role to play in them.

It is true that law and order is a state subject, but Maharashtra is ruled by a BJP-led chief minister.

So the excuse was hardly tenable. And, in Dadri, which is in Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh, the chargesheet filed in the aftermath of the incident named Vishal Rana, the son of a local BJP leader, and his cousin Shivam, as the main conspirators who led the mob to Akhlaq's house and assaulted the family.

So this explanation too is not plausible.

During his London visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was asked why India was becoming an increasingly intolerant place. He had responded saying India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi and that its culture does not accept anything against basic social values.

His exact words were: "India does not accept intolerance even if it is one or two or three incidents." He went on to state, "law takes strong action and will continue to do so... Constitution provides protection to all citizens, their lives and thoughts. We are committed to it".

If law would have indeed taken strong action against intolerance, as has been promised by the prime minister, gau rakshaks would not have gone on a rampage.

If fringe elements feel emboldened, the main reason is there is no fear or law to arrest them.

Going by different utterances of the prime minister on the issue of containing fringe elements, it's not difficult to conclude that his words have never translated into action. Will this time be any different - does Narendra Modi now mean business?

Writer

Ashok Upadhyay Ashok Upadhyay @ashoupadhyay

Editor, India Today Television.

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