Addressing an all-party meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went after the cow vigilantes again.
He said: “Some anti-social elements have made cow protection an excuse to spread anarchy. This is also affecting the nation’s image. All political parties should strongly condemn this hooliganism in the name of cow protection.”
Because law and order is the prime responsibility of state governments, the PM suggested that they take tough action against anti-social elements carrying out violence in the name of cow protection.
His remarks came in the wake of reports of mobs attacking and lynching people over allegations of eating beef. In many cases, even cattle traders have been lynched.
But will the Prime Minister's tough talk have the desired result? Will the gau rakshaks mend their ways and refrain from taking the law into their hand?
This is the fourth time the PM has issued such a warning to self-proclaimed gau rakshaks in the last 344 days. The first time he spoke about it was on August 6, 2016.
While speaking at the Indira Gandhi Stadium Complex, Modi said: “People who have set up shop in the name of gau raksha make me very angry.” He asked states to prepare dossiers of such people and also said that 70-80 per cent of such people are anti-social elements. A day later, he again brought up the issue while speaking in Telangana.
If Modi can’t enforce his own thinking or words on the issue of cow vigilantism, it shows only him in a poor light.
Last month, on June 29, while delivering a speech to mark the centenary of the Sabarmati ashram in Ahmedabad, Modi gave another strong warning and said: "Killing people in the name of 'gau bhakti' is not acceptable.”
Let’s see the effect the PM's words have had in the last 344 days.
August 18, 2016: A BJP worker in Karnataka who was transporting cows in a tempo or three-wheeler died after he was attacked.
August 24, 2016: In Mewat, Haryana, 10 alleged gau rakshaks killed a Muslim couple in their 30s - Rasheedan and Ibrahim.
September 18, 2016: 25-year-old Mohammad Ayub Mev was thrashed brutally by cow vigilantes. He later succumbed to injuries at the hospital.
April 2017: Pehlu Khan was attacked by cow vigilantes in Rajasthan. He died during treatment at a hospital.
April 30, 2017: Two suspected “cattle thieves” were lynched in Assam's Nagaon.
June 29, 2017: Meat trader Asgar Ali was beaten to death for carrying beef in Ramgarh, Jharkhand.
This clearly shows that even after the Prime Minister’s repeated warnings, there is no sign of improvement in situation on the ground. Rather, it has deteriorated.
The Prime Minister also tried to pass a bit of blame on to state government by called the issue a “state subject”. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is now in power in 16 states, accounting for 61 per cent of India’s total population.
Today, Modi is the party’s biggest leader and his word is the last word in the party. Yet, his repeated warnings don't seem to be working. And that is quite intriguing.
The answer seems to be in how different wings of the Sangh Parivar, of which the Prime Minister too is a member, think about the issue. The day Modi addressed the all-party meeting and called cow vigilante groups “anti-social elements”, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Praveen Togadia was addressing a meeting of VHP workers in the Braj region.
He said: “Gau rakshaks should neither fear anyone nor come under pressure from anyone. They should continue their work of saving cows without being concerned with name-calling.”
So, while the PM wants to act against cow vigilante groups, the head of one of the front groups of the Sangh Parivar was asking his workers not to get scared and keep on what they are doing.
This clearly suggests that till the Sangh Parivar isn’t on the same page with the PM on the issue of gau rakshaks, all warnings of Modi will go in vain. And if he can’t enforce even his own thinking or words on this issue, it shows only him in a poor light.