Gau-Rakshaks to the Rescue

Secularism has always been a contentious topic to debate on. However, the flames of communal disharmony are raging like never before. Ever ...

Secularism has always been a contentious topic to debate on. However, the flames of communal disharmony are raging like never before. Ever since the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaque in Dadri on suspicions of cow slaughter, a host of similarly patterned incidents have come to light. Even if we are to disregard the media glare and limelight that the issue has hogged, the otherwise blunt statistics are too deplorable: in the last five years, India has had fifty-eight incidents of communal distress for every month of the calendar. Even worse, all these events were concentrated within the ambit of a mere count of eight States. The Constitution defines India as a nation-state of secular fabric. The trouble is, certain right-wing mavericks are desperately trying to push India into a theocratic setup: and in the process, are creating irreparable damage to the general framework of the provisions meant to ensure the same.

Conservative jingoistic sentiments have overtaken the human emotions of love, compromise, and consideration. A handful of videos that surfaced on social media, and later became viral, depict self-styled religious vigilantes horrendously beat up people accused of transporting or facilitating the consumption of beef. Recent clashes in Gujarat have turned violent after four Dalits accused of insulting the sanctity of the cow were stripped of their shirts and mercilessly tortured. The public has been, fortunately, supportive in this endeavour. Such was the power of the demonstration by the multitude that the police had to rein in the tumultuous situation by means of teargas shells and a bucketful of mob-dispersal tactics. In Madhya Pradesh, two Dalit women were assaulted by these so-called custodians of the Hindu order on the pretext of them being guilty of carrying beef: ironically enough, it turned out to be buffalo meat. A Kashmiri youth was murdered for the sole purpose of travelling in a truck carrying cattle.

Representative image. 

Dalits share a lot in common with cows. Cows, as animals, are victims of death: and as such, their carcass needs to be disposed of at the earliest after their demise. For centuries, the Dalits have taken on themselves the responsibility to execute this job. After the dead animal is discarded, they skin the animal for its leather and sell the meat to legal vendors of beef. After the uproar over the condemnable attack in Gujarat, the community has threatened to halt their duty, putting an extra burden on the already unsustainable cow population in India.

After months of undignified silence, the premier of the Government, Narendra Modi expressed his strong discontent with the events at play. In a State address, Modi said that most of these cow vigilantes were criminals masked as "gau rakshaks". However, it must be kept in mind that as far as a firm resolve is concerned, the present government has had double standards. Instead of condemning the heinous attacks on the Dalits, the Social Justice Minister regretted the fact that they were initiated by baseless, unfounded rumours. Instead of defending Akhlaque, it had primarily ordered a forensic investigation so as to find out whether or not beef was stored. Modi, via his address, put forward a proposal to the States to prepare a dossier for those guilty of unwarranted vigilantism. Even the legal sphere has not been spared: Congress activist Tehseen Poonawaala has registered a PIL with the apex court demanding stern action against the members of these 'Gau Rakshak' groups. Filtering out all the cynicism, one can only hope that the strongly worded message would resonate with the otherwise heartless fanatical criminals.

Agents in the saffron brigade of India have however attempted to nullify the cautionary advice. Some people, after all, serve to be the perfect alibi for the schoolboy term, "mischief mongers". The President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad openly accused the Prime Minister of insulting the guardians of the Gita, those who work at the grassroot levels. In my opinion, these people can deliver a harangue on any matter of social relevance, albeit from the distorted perspective. In that process, due to their natural oratory skills, some minds get radicalised with the wrong notions. That vicious chain is then a never-ending one, a contagious vice that knows no bounds. That one infected mind spreads the malicious design to the other, the other person to a hundred, and the hundred to a countless more.

It is time for an immediate crackdown on these nefarious agents who unnecessarily strain the communal tensions. As rational beings, is it not fair to merit the human life more than that of a petty cow? A unilateral focus on salvaging cows would lead to a state of disillusion, tearing apart the secular anatomy of the nation. India is successful because contributions from all sections of the society are accepted; it would collapse the moment the iniquity of such events as cow vigilantism corrodes the foundation pillars of the Constitution.

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