The situation is getting worse day by day. Resorting to violence in the name of protecting cows is slowly but surely giving birth to an atmosphere in which one section of people may soon develop intense hatred against the rest of the population of the country if no effective steps are taken to stop it. Any leniency at this stage may make the situation go out of the hands of the authorities, leading to chaos when mob rule will replace the law of the land. Then it will not be surprising if more killings occur like the cold-blooded murder of 15-year-old Junaid Khan in a local train at Ballabhgarh station near Faridabad while he was on his way back home (Khandauli village in Haryana) from Delhi after doing Eid shopping along with his another brother and two cousins. They also suffered injuries after they were attacked by 15-20 persons only because they happened to be Muslims.
The fifth seriously injured person, Junaid’s elder brother Shakir, now fighting for his life at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), was stabbed repeatedly when he reached Ballabhgarh railway station after receiving an SOS call from Junaid.
These children did not carry anything which could be suspected as being beef. Reports say that Junaid, who had boarded a train at Okhla, even offered his seat to an elderly person to show respect to him. But nothing worked against him as he could be clearly identified as a Muslim because of his beard. He had completed this year a course in Islamic studies at a school in Surat, Gujarat, and was a Hafiz (having acquired the ability to recite the entire Quran). The attackers first hurled religious abuse at them and then began to stab them and beat them mercilessly as if they had committed a major crime.
What happened that black Thursday near Faridabad was perhaps the worst kind of hate crime committed after cow-protection vigilante groups began to unleash terror following the formation of the NDA government in Delhi in 2014.
Soon after this gory happening came the news of another killing by a cow vigilante group in Jharkhand with the law-enforcing agencies doing little to prevent such incidents of violence. The victim, a Muslim, was driving his Maruti van when he was stopped and brutally attacked by a group of people near Bajartand village in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district. He died as he was taken to hospital. Three days before this incident, a dairy owner was attacked by a 1,000-strong mob in the state and his house was set on fire after the carcass of a cow was found nearby.
Before these shameful incidents occurred, a violent vigilante campaign against beef eating resulted in the killing of at least 10 Muslims in seven separate incidents of mob violence, mostly in BJP-ruled states like UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, according to the Human Rights Watch group. The most brutal cases of lynching in the name of cow protection earlier were that of Mohammed Akhlaque of Bisada village, near Dadri, and of Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan’s Alwar district.
Such hate crimes are showing no signs of coming to an end mainly because of the lacklustre attitude of the authorities. Time is running out. The governments at the Centre and in the states must act fast to send across the message that enough is enough. The country’s image as a civilized nation is at stake. That image must be protected before it is too late.
Since law and order is a state subject, what threatens to become a wave of hate crimes can be eliminated only when there is wholehearted cooperation from state governments.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement against violence in the name of cow protection has come too late to rein in cow vigilantism. The style is the same as he spoke a few days after the lynching of Akhlaque in Bisada village in 2016.
He told an audience in Gujarat on June 29, “Killing people in the name of 'gau bhakti' cannot be accepted. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve of.” Advising people to shun the path of violence, he said, “Let’s work together and create the India of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams. Let’s create an India our freedom fighters would be proud of. Violence never has and never will solve any problem and as a society, there is no place for violence.”
Nearly 11 months after a mob lynched Akhlaq near Dadri on suspicion of having killed a cow, Mr Modi had remarked, “I feel really angry at the way some people have opened shops in the name of cow protection. I have seen that some people commit anti-social activities through the night, but act as cow protectors by the day.”
The trigger for his remarks then appeared to be a shocker in Una, Gujarat, where a group of Dalit men were brutally flogged by upper caste vigilantes for skinning a dead cow.
However, the Prime Minister’s observation had little effect on the thinking of those who kill people on the pretext of being enemies of cows. One could not expect much this time too.
But now it seems these hate crimes have moved those not connected with cow vigilantism to come out of their homes to stand up firmly against violence being unleashed in the name gau raksha. The peaceful protests, with banners asserting “Not in My Name”, held at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar and many other places in the country may shame the authorities to get tough with anyone taking the law into one’s own hands on any pretext. Only a people’s movement can effectively end the madness being spread by exploiting Hindus’ sentiments with regard to the cow and its progeny.
The other day I happened to see a social media clip on the issue of ‘gau raksha’ which was too provocative to describe in words. The time has come to provide all kinds of support to the people’s drive that has begun against those preaching violence in the name of cow protection.
(The writer, a Delhi-based political commentator, is a former Deputy Editor of The Tribune, Chandigarh.)(Published on 03th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 27)