Not saying it

The Prime Minister’s message on violence in the name of the cow is still less pointed, less blunt

By: Editorial | Published: July 18, 2017 12:00 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi, PM Modi, Sabarmati Ashram, Gau Bhakt, India News, Indian Express, Indian Express News Express Photo

At the end of last month, on June 29, a day after nationwide civil society protests against lynchings spilled into the streets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed anguish. With the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad his backdrop, the PM said that killing in the name of gau bhakti, or devotion to the cow, is not acceptable, that the Mahatma would not have approved of it, and that no one had the right to take law and order into his own hands. At that time, his message did well to break a ringing silence — but it did not seem enough. The PM had spoken of cow vigilantism and lynchings as disembodied events. He did not name the victims, call the crime by its name. He did not say that what India is seeing, across states, is a rash of hate crimes. On Sunday, on the eve of the Monsoon session, the PM spoke again of the continuing violence in the name of the cow. He spoke of “asamajik tatva (anti-social elements)” spreading “arajakta (anarchy)”, called upon state governments to take action since law and order is primarily their responsibility, asked all political parties to condemn the hooliganism. On Sunday, again, the PM’s message was all the less sharp for its unfortunate refusal to go the whole way.

The lynchings, mostly in the name of the cow, mainly targeting Muslims, cannot be treated as mere law and order disturbances generally left to the governments in the states. Of course, state governments are responsible for the failures of the police that are being highlighted in these incidents — the police reaches late, or becomes a bystander, or demonstrates greater zeal in filing cases against the victims. Yet, what sets these lynchings apart, what makes them a hate crime, and what contributes to the police abdications is that, though separated by time and geography, they draw upon a common and centralised pattern of political understandings, cues and messages. The mobs which target minorities are emboldened by a perceived open season on Muslims. They count on a climate of impunity, presided over by a political regime that appears to speak more in defence of the cow — including through the plethora of laws, rules and notifications curbing and banning the sale and slaughter of cattle — than on the equal rights and special protections that governments in a constitutional democracy owe to their most vulnerable groups of citizens.

What the PM needed to say, what he still has not said, is that his colleagues in the Sangh Parivar must no longer deny the gravity of these crimes, or condone them. As the party that rules the Centre and in a large number of states, the BJP must send out the unquivocal message that these mobs do not act in its name. That its governments in the states will act firmly and fairly whenever such violence happens, and the Centre will use all the direct and supervisory powers and mechanisms at its command to ensure that they and other state governments do so. This political message must necessarily travel down from the top — from the party high command to the cadres, from the Prime Minister to the Chief Ministers, from the Centre to the states.

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  1. R
    R K
    Jul 18, 2017 at 10:13 am
    Killing of cows in states where its meat and consumption is ofcourse a crime and the individuals involved in it are certainly criminals involved in criminal activity....It is also a matter of faith for Hindus that in spite of law to the contrary, illegal trading for their meat is being carried on....this makes some of them take law into their own hands.....but the real criminals in the matter are the people who are taking out the unlawful and criminal activity of buying and selling of cow meat in the states where is it banned....but this mulli and her sickular friends will not speak about the real matter...why don't they exhort those people not to indulge in the criminal activity...but what they say is BJP/RSS is killing muslims...based on just 5-10 incidents of this type in the whole country of 130 crores... fact this activity was continuing earlier also but ISLAMIST media like IE have now started giving it frontline coverage for defaming modiji....
    1. Shamsul Islam
      Jul 18, 2017 at 9:44 am
      Our PM refuses to understand that it is not infirmity of law or enforcing agencies that lynching/robbing in the name of cow continues. It is the accumulative outcome of hatred spread by RSS over holiness of cow. Is our PM so naive that as a senior RSS pracharak he does not know how Golwalkar manufactured the fact about cow-slaughter that it was started by Muslims and Christians. Golwalkar, a shameless liar while responding to a question (1966), “How did cow slaughter begin in our country [India]?” replied, “It began with the coming of foreign invaders [Muslims Christians] to our country.”. [MS Golwalkar, Spotlight, Sahitya Sindhu (RSS publication house), Bangalore, 1974, p. 98.] It is this propaganda at Hindutva shakhas and boudhik meetings which has created this scenario of terror. Unless PM and his band of rulers disown this blatant lie, the violence in the name of cow is not going to end.