Amid calls for action against gau rakshaks over the recent attack on Dalits in Gujarat, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot said on Wednesday that they are like any other social organisations that are formed for a cause. He, however, added that such cow vigilante groups should verify rumours before taking action.
“There is a law prohibiting cow slaughter. The Centre has it, so do the states, and there are rules too. Laws are in place but what can one do about rumours… These are all social organisations. It could be for gau raksha sewa dal, it could be for eliminating social evils, people keep forming these social groups and doing things. Someone may have informed them (about cow slaughter) and they would have rushed. What they need to do is find out its veracity and then go,” Gehlot told The Indian Express, replying to a question on whether the Centre plans to step in and crack down on gau rakshaks.
“Like the incident in Gujarat, where people were merely skinning a dead cow, but it was rumoured that they killed the cow for the meat. In Dadri also, the same thing happened, but there it turned out to be true, they had cow meat. These days, on any sensitive issue, rumours are easily sparked off, people don’t ask for proof before reacting,” he said.
On July 11, a group of gau rakshaks flogged seven Dalits in Una town of Gujarat after accusing them of slaughtering a cow. In September last year, Mohammad Akhlaq, 50, was lynched by a mob in Dadri following reports of beef consumption.
Gehlot said there were similar incidents of atrocities against Dalits earlier too, but the government had acted swiftly this time. “This has happened before also but this time, immediately after the incident, there was an attempt to ensure appropriate and impartial action, and justice for the affected families,” he said.
“An FIR was filed… 16 people were arrested after watching the video. How much more expeditiously could we have acted? The relevant IPC sections were applied… Before this, when such incidents happened, immediate action wasn’t taken. That is the difference,” he said.
Gehlot’s ministry is in charge of handling issues relating to Scheduled Castes and monitoring implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015.