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.

 |  10-minute read |   06-08-2016
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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.

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.

modi-townhall-embed_080616084546.jpg 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.

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.

His emphasis on the intricate connection between technology and governance was for everyone to see.

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.

He focussed on affordable healthcare for the poor, and creating campaigns to promote general health awareness among all.

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. 

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.

He even had a word for Indian food.

Then there were statements that could be brilliant one-liners, but were lacking in the substance department. Sample these:

And finally, the big message of the day: say NO to cow vigilantism.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

There was even criticism of how the Modi government fails to acknowledge initiatives that were started by the previous UPA dispensation.

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.

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