Was Modi's message to Gau Rakshaks stern or hollow?
At his inaugural MyGov townhall address, PM criticised cow vigiliantes in no uncertain terms but kept mum on Dalits and Muslims suffering.
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It took him a while but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally spoken on the rampant cow vigilantism and hooliganism going on in the country at present in the name of protecting the holy cow.
At his first townhall meet at the Indira Gandhi Stadium complex in the national capital, PM Modi took a stern position vis-à-vis gau raksha dals that have mushroomed of late and have carried out atrocities against Muslims and Dalits under the pretext of spotting beef.
“Gau bhakts and gau sevaks are different. It angers me to see that people with vested interests are using ‘cow vigilantism’ to promote their own agenda. They have set up gau raksha shops. Many are anti-socials and criminals who want to hide behind cow frenzy,” PM Modi said, sending a strong signal that he wouldn’t tolerate any indiscretion in the name of the bovine.
Ive seen many people who carry out anti-social activities all night, & during the day they wear garb of "gau rakshaks" (cow protectors): PM— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
India Today, this week, had done a seething exposé called #OperationHolyCow on how cows in Gujarat are dying of starvation in shelters because of the ongoing beef politics over the flogging of Dalits in Una for skinning a dead cow, and it was good to see the PM finally taking a position on this extremely pressing matter and breaking his deafening silence.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Townhall address in New Delhi on Saturday. [Photo: ANI]
PM Modi also launched the PMO Mobile app, which would enable citizens to connect with the PM's website and share ideas.
PM Narendra Modi launches PMO Mobile Application, an application developed with citizens' ideas. pic.twitter.com/fibB3BIFsY— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
Since the Townhall address was on the occasion of celebrating two years of MyGov.in, the government-citizen interactive website through which the Narendra Modi regime connects with ordinary Indians and makes it a participatory digital democracy, the prime minister shared his candid views on a range of subjects, chiefly how technology can bolster democracy.
If democracy is limited to voting & choosing a Govt then the spirit of democracy would not develop: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/J5BFGjkij1— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
If we don't focus on good governance then lives of normal people will not change: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/Qz48Fw2wbj— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
Development and good governance should have a balanced relation, even for a small incident anywhere, PM is targeted: PM Modi— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
We want to develop good governance where processes are less and things get done easy for citizens: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/F56KbzpqWJ— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
His emphasis on the intricate connection between technology and governance was for everyone to see.
Technology and good governance will benefit farmers. Most powerful thing in democracy is Grievance Redress System: PM Modi— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
He spoke on economic growth despite dismal global contingencies, and also said that cities and villages should come under the ambit of "smartness", with the RURBAN project.
The world is in recession. Despite the purchasing capacity of world going down, we have a growth rate of 7.6%: PM Modi— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
Smart city is a conecpt for cities and for villages we have Smart City+ Mission - 300 Rurban villages. pic.twitter.com/GjoF1kSBtG— MyGovIndia (@mygovindia) August 6, 2016
He focussed on affordable healthcare for the poor, and creating campaigns to promote general health awareness among all.
We need to focus on preventive and affordable health care: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/aRYOqzS7w4— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
Now Health Department is reaching out household to household to reach everyone: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/nN4cgDU6EQ— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
Answering a question on his plans for the textile industry and handlooms, the PM said that we must be proud of our heritage and embrace Khadi as fashion for the nation. There's talk of the government pumping in crores into the textile sector, and reinvigorating our dwindling indigenous cloth market.
We should follow 'Khaadi for nation Khaadi for fashion', this will boost our textile industry: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/NGsmc7Eu1U— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
On non-resident Indians and the huge diaspora, Modi had good words, given that he gets maximum support from NRI groups in terms of donations, remitances as well as through tourism.
Indians settled abroad have their own strength & this plays a great role for India to connect with other nations: PM pic.twitter.com/oJ3i5A95bZ— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
He even had a word for Indian food.
India has so much to offer when it comes to food that if we market it well it can take the world by a storm: PM Modi— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
Then there were statements that could be brilliant one-liners, but were lacking in the substance department. Sample these:
The unique spirit of our villages must remain and at the same time they must have facilities associated with cities: PM— PMO India (@PMOIndia) August 6, 2016
A spirit of social service is a part of our culture. We have always helped people in times of need: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) August 6, 2016
And finally, the big message of the day: say NO to cow vigilantism.
Cows mostly die of eating plastic bags and these Cow rakshaks should urge ppl not to throw plastic on roads, this will be a big sewa: PM— ANI (@ANI_news) August 6, 2016
The spirit of a democracy is incomplete if one thinks the citizen's role stops at voting. Participative democracy is essential: PM— PMO India (@PMOIndia) August 6, 2016
Journalists and social media alike went ga-ga over the prime minister's strong and much-awaited words on cow hysteria, the important caveat on why we should reduce the plastic footprint if we really love the bovine. Moreover, the punchy line on foreign policy - India First - (also the name of an India Today show by our executive editor Gaurav Sawant!) got kudos.
"No need for words like aggressive, passive etc to describe foreign policy. Foreign policy is simply India First" ~ PM #MydayatMyGov— Abhijit Majumder (@abhijitmajumder) August 6, 2016
However, caveats and skepticism were equally sounded at the prime minister's airy comments that saw little action on the ground. Moreover, the PM had nothing to say on the plight of the minorities and Dalits who are the chief victims of cow hysteria. The PM focussed on the condition of the dying cows, but left out a huge hole by never mentioning how his own citizens suffered and died because of the pseudo cow craze.
Act PM you have all the power why just "gussa"? https://t.co/XMYjZEdJhI— Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) August 6, 2016
Manmohan Singh who was used for target practice by Modi must laughing! https://t.co/WKCYWnZbJh— Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) August 6, 2016
Some hit out at how social media has been exploited by BJP's online cell and inspired trolls to attack journalists and liberals who are critical of the government.
Propaganda and perception management tool exploited by bullies https://t.co/hOEzhx39g6— Shivam Vij (@DilliDurAst) August 6, 2016
There were important notes sounded on how the condiction of having a beef ban in place and the moral censure of gau rakshaks was playing out with the PM's apparent admonition of the cow vigilantes. Some even said that the PM himself had partaken of the beef hysteria during the Bihar Assembly poll campaign and even during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections propaganda.
Asking for restrains on Gau Raksha and enforcing existing beef legislations is contradictory. Existing law legitimises their role.— Apar Gupta (@aparatbar) August 6, 2016
Such tendencies manifest over time. Some cow protection legislations criminalise possession & shift the burden of proof on the accused.— Apar Gupta (@aparatbar) August 6, 2016
Mitron - Spend some days in Gujarat! pic.twitter.com/y8FFFliP0L— Ambedkar's Caravan (@AmbedkarCaravan) August 6, 2016
There was even criticism of how the Modi government fails to acknowledge initiatives that were started by the previous UPA dispensation.
2 yrs in power PM still cities self attestation as his contribution to good governance (actually a UPA invention) pic.twitter.com/evyXXaZeGV— Siddharth Mazumdar (@mazumdar_sid) August 6, 2016
All the politics notwithstanding, here are a few pointers on MyGov, which marked the second anniversary of the government-initiated citizen participation forum:
1. Held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium complex in New Delhi, it saw a series of panel discussions on the MyGov tagline: “Do, Discuss and Disseminate”.
2. PM Modi launched a PMO app wherein smartphone users would be connected to the PM’s website and keep a tab on various developmental schemes and initiatives.
3. This included an opening session with information and technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and a session with Union finance minister Arun Jaitley.
4. Before PM Modi addressed the audience at the townhall, he handed out awards to winners of MyGov contests, including civil society activists and entrepreneurs who had made use of MyGov website.
5. PM also addressed a volley of pre-recorded questions which were played out at the event.
6. A session on #TransformingIndia website, eSampark portal and MyGov live events saw enraptured audience listening to a lively discussion on digital democracy.
7. MyGov.in has 3.53 million registered users and 3.4 million comments on 590 topics and threads.