Why Does the Prime Minister Stop Short of Banning Cow-Vigilante Goons?

A month after Dalit youth were stripped and flogged in Gujarat by ‘cow-protection’ vigilantes, the Prime Minister finally spoke. At a town-hall in Delhi he distinguished between genuine ‘Cow Servants’ and fake ‘Cow Protectors’, saying that 70-80% of Cow Protectors are anti-social elements and such elements make him angry. He asked state governments to prepare “dossiers” on “cow protectors”. At a meeting in Hyderabad, he proclaimed “If you must shoot someone, shoot me, don’t shoot Dalits.”

These words have been dragged from Modi by the remarkable and contagious upsurge of Dalit anger that is spreading from Gujarat all over the country. The Dalit protests in Gujarat told the Sangh cow protection outfits and BJP Government – ‘If the cow is your mother, you take care of her carcasse’. A rattled BJP replaced the Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel but even that move failed to curb the protests. A massive rally of Amit Shah at Agra in UP that had planned to mobilize 40000 Dalits had to be cancelled. Elections in UP and Punjab are upcoming, and the BJP is desperate to control the damage to its Dalit-consolidation strategy caused by the Gujarat protests. 

The BJP had planned to repeat its 2014 election strategy of appealing to Dalits to vote as part of a Hindu votebank: essentially a political extension of the RSS’ ghar wapsi (return home) campaign that asks converted Dalits to return to the Hindu fold. The attack of the cow-goons and the powerful form the Dalit protests adopted have exposed the fault line between the Dalits and Brahminical, communal Hindutva once again – just as the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula at the instigation of Modi’s Ministers did some months ago.      

The BJP is especially worried at the growing unity and solidarities displayed between oppressed Muslim minorities and Dalits in Gujarat and elsewhere. Modi’s speech is a crude attempt to tell the Dalits that while the ‘cow-goons’ will still have a free hand to attack Muslims, their attacks on Dalits will be belatedly condemned.

The question is – why did Modi not ask State Governments to act against cow-goons after Akhlaque was lynched to death at Dadri? Had he spoken and acted then, the lynch-mob killings of Muslims at Udhampur and Latehar and the flogging of Dalits at Una might have been averted. Why is Modi silent even now on his Ministers like Sanjeev Balyan and Mahesh Sharma and BJP MLA Sangeet Som who approved of the Dadri lynching, as well as BJP Chief Ministers of Haryana and Jharkhand who have condoned killings by the cow-goons? BJP MLA Raja Singh applauded the “punishment” meted out to Dalits at Una and called Dalits “filthy” for slaughtering cows and consuming beef – will Modi tell us if Raja Singh is a genuine Gau Sevak or a fake Gau Rakshak? The late VHP leader Ashok Singhal had in 2002 justified the lynching of Dalits by cow-goons in Jhajjar, saying ‘the shastras hold the life of a cow to be priceless’. Will Modi tell us if Singhal was a genuine or a fake cow-protector?

In fact, Modi’s remarks expose the fact that even after the atrocities at Dadri, Udhampur, Latehar and Una, he is unable to unequivocally condemn the politics of cow-vigilantism and ban such groups. He is unable to say that the very agenda of attacking human beings to ‘protect’ cows is wrong: he is only able to say that anti-social and criminal elements are posing as ‘cow-protectors’. He asks for a dossier on a section of them while continuing to approve of the ‘genuine’ ones.

Modi himself forgets that his own speeches in the 2014 Parliamentary campaign in Bihar implied that his opponents were betraying Yadav cow-worshippers by allowing ‘cow slaughter’ and ‘Pink Revolution’ in order to appease Muslims. In those speeches, Modi made no mention of the dangers plastic poses to cows – because plastic, unlike ‘cow-slaughter’, has little communally divisive potential. 

Modi’s ‘Shoot Me’ rhetoric is typically arrogant, self-centred and dishonest. Why could Modi not simply say, ‘Don’t kill human beings in the name of the cow?’ Why, after Gujarat 2002 or after the Dadri and Latehar lynchings, could Modi not say ‘Lynch me, hang me, but don’t kill Muslims?’ Why is Modi silent on the Cobrapost revelations that expose the BJP and RSS as the force behind the Ranveer Sena that massacred Dalits in Bihar? Why could Modi take no action on his Ministers who called Rohith Vemula anti-national and hounded him to his death?    

Modi’s belated and dishonest words on Rohith Vemula did not stop the movement inspired by Vemula. His belated and dishonest words on cow-goondaism will not contain the wave of protests that are sweeping Gujarat and the rest of the country – protests that are throwing off the yoke of age-old Brahminism and offering a spirited resistance to the casteist and communal politics of the RSS and BJP.

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