Fifth column: Good speech, but not enough

The Prime Minister said last week that nobody had the right to take the law into his own hands. So what he needs to do now is investigate why it is mostly in states ruled by BJP chief ministers that we have seen so many incidents of cow vigilantism.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: July 2, 2017 10:38 am
narendra modi, gau rakshaks, cow vigilantism, junaid khan, modi on lynching, india news, indian express news Prime Minister Narendra Modi said last week that nobody had the right to take the law into his own hands.

There is a sad sort of irony in the Prime Minister’s choice of the Sabarmati Ashram to finally speak out last week against vigilante killings in the name of cow protection. Does he not know that the Mahatma is not a hero in the ‘new’ India? No sooner did he finish his speech than angry voices filled the realms of social media. In shrill tones they denounced Gandhiji for being a symbol of an ‘impotent’ India. In their view, that impotent India is a country that belongs in the past. They mocked Narendra Modi for speaking of non-violence in the ashram of a man whose non-violence they blame for hundreds of thousands of Hindus being massacred by Muslims when India was partitioned. So not only is Gandhi no hero in the new India, he is a symbol of weakness.

It is possible that the Mahatma was never a hero in the eyes of those whose voices are heard loudest today, but it is only in the past three years that they have dared to say this out loud. Violence is the mood of the new India and the armed men who wander our highways in search of Muslims to kill are today’s heroes. Videos of victims being beaten to death with iron rods and stones are circulated proudly by the killers, who seem to believe that the only way to keep Muslims in check is to show them what will happen if they forget their place.

So even as the Prime Minister spoke out clearly against killing people on the excuse of protecting cows, news of another lynching came from Jharkhand. A man identified as Alimuddin Ansari was beaten to death near Ranchi because he was transporting meat in his van. Videos of the lynching show his killers pushing him to the ground and holding his terrified face up in front of the camera for a few last shots before beating him to death. His van was burned afterwards so nobody will ever know if the meat he was transporting was beef or not. In all the lynching videos, the killers are young men who appear to take great pride in their violence. They see what they do as valour, that is why they film every detail despite the danger of providing the police with incriminating evidence.

The Prime Minister said last week that nobody had the right to take the law into his own hands. So what he needs to do now is investigate why it is mostly in states ruled by BJP chief ministers that we have seen so many incidents of cow vigilantism. Could it be that the rule of law is no longer respected or feared in these states because of some secret pact that allows killers to believe that they can get away with murder? Or could it be that law enforcement in India has always permitted political criminals to get away with crimes that ordinary criminals would be jailed for?

Beef vigilantes do not see themselves as ordinary criminals, although many of them may well be just ordinary killers. They see themselves as part of a political movement to save India from being ruled once more by Muslims. They pay close attention to speeches made by men like Syed Salahuddin and Hafiz Saeed in our neighbouring Islamic republic and they take their words seriously. These gentlemen routinely make it clear that their ultimate aim is to bring Islamic rule back in India. And then to confirm the worst fears of today’s Hindutva warriors, there is the worldwide jihad. Every time there is a new act of jihadist terrorism somewhere in the world, a hysteria gets whipped up against our own Muslims, as if they are somehow guilty just by being Muslim.

So although it is very good that the Prime Minister has condemned cow vigilantism in such clear terms, it may not make as much difference as some of us may have hoped. On a personal level, I have often criticised him in this column for not speaking out loudly and clearly against every lynching, but now I find myself wondering if it will make any difference at all. What will make a difference is strict law enforcement, especially in states ruled by BJP chief ministers. It is not enough to arrest the killers and release them on bail quietly as soon as the media loses interest.

If there can be special fast track courts for terrorists and rapists, there can and should be special courts for cow vigilantes. It is no longer enough to say, as our political leaders love saying, that the law will take its own course. In India, this is a very long, slow course indeed. This is why the rule of law in our ancient land is such a tenuous thing that killers do not fear it.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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  1. sarjit singh
    Jul 4, 2017 at 1:02 am
    You may consider Gandhi a hero but he double-crossed Sikhs. He deceived them promising them that nothing would done regarding Sikhs affairs if they did not approve of it. Besides, the movie about him have generated enough profits, but his contributions in South Africa for 20 years produced negative profits for the blacks. About his importance in the eyes of the British in consideration of India's independence, as confirmed by Sir Clement Attlee, the prime minister who granted India independence, was very minimal. As a leader, he was self conceited man. He called the poor - dumb millions. If you cannot read the Book 'Great Soul", you can read its reviews in the Wall Street Journal.
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      Rita Datta
      Jul 3, 2017 at 9:46 pm
      Tavleen Singh is that rare journalist who does not hesitate to criticise the leadership and the party she had supported during the elections. That's the way it should be. Unless journalists ask uncomfortable questions, who will? But like in the Congress era, much of the media wish to be the poodle of whoever's in power. Thank you, Tavleen.
      1. NARAYAN RAO
        Jul 3, 2017 at 9:33 am
        Like Modi's words , these words of Tavleen SIngh are also too little , too late. She mentions BJP governments in states , but she does not still explicitly name and shame people like Khattar and Vasundhara Raje , who have not lifted a finger to act against vigilantism in their states. She praises Modi for speaking out against vigilantism , but does not mention that he had done exactly the same thing nearly a year back given that his words then never did anything , are we still hopeful that his words this time will do anything ? She still does not dare to say that Modi is the most ineffectual PM we have had in controlling anything , especially after all his election rhetoric , and after the majority that they have in Parliament. Tavleen Singh has a long way to go before she becomes another Arun Shourie.
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          Piara Singh
          Jul 3, 2017 at 3:19 am
          It was under Modi's leadership what had happened in Gujrat in 2002.It is just possible that he himself was involved directly.The reason he got free was that some of the police personal must have been involved too.They looked opposite direction when the BJP(RSS) goons were commiting the crime.These police personal covered up the crime and may have helped Modi to be declared free.He can ban these so called Cow Raakhshak and other criminals.But why should he when they are helping him and the BJP to win elections.Terrorize the minorities and win elections.That is their formula.It worked in Gujrat and it worked in UP.Over 125 people died standing in lines created by Mr Modi.Has he ever apologize to their families.Mr Modi and Natish Shah are the most wicked people in India.They are taking the country on Pakistan's line.It is going to be a disaster.People can chose India or Mr. MOdi and Natish Shah.It is up to them.
          1. L
            Jul 3, 2017 at 2:02 am
            Can't be bothered by dictat from pres ute - go deal with it..
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