INTENSIFYING CRITICISM against self-proclaimed cow vigilante groups had its echoes in the Lok Sabha Friday, with the Opposition slamming the BJP for the latest such incident — the attack on two Muslim women in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, on suspicion of carrying cow meat. The BJP government in the state came in for criticism for ostensibly trying to “protect” the culprits.
Alleging that Dalits and Muslims were being increasingly targeted, the Opposition parties demanded of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence over the spurt in such incidents. Although Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured the members that justice will be done in the Madhya Pradesh incident, Congress MPs, along with those of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Left parties, staged a walkout during Zero Hour.
The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre has been under attack for a rising number of incidents across the country in which cow vigilante (gau rakshak) groups have assaulted people from Dalit and Muslim families in the name of protecting cattle. The incidents seem to have given a jolt to the BJP’s attempts to woo the community ahead of key state elections early next year.
Both the government and the party have initiated a series of programmes for Dalits.
Highlighting another aspect of the ban on beef and cow slaughter, BJD member Tathagata Satpathy said poor farmers cannot take care of old cows and buffaloes or sell them off to butchers, which affect the economy and the ecology. He asked the government to take a policy decision on how such farmers should better handle milch cattle once the animals grow old and stop producing milk.
With Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowing an adjournment motion on the Mandsaur incident, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue in Zero Hour and warned that his speech would make the Treasury benches angry. Pointing out that the two Muslim women were assaulted by so-called cow vigilante groups in the presence of police personnel merely on the basis of suspicion, Kharge said, “The women showed the receipts of buffalo meat but the bills were torn into pieces.”
The forensic report also said it was buffalo meat, Kharge pointed out.
Quoting a report that appeared in The Indian Express on Friday, Kharge said, “The gau rakshaks told the women, ‘If you were men, we would have killed you. We are sparing you because you are women’.”
He alleged that BJP cadres were indulging in such activities, and that the government was protecting the culprits. He reeled out statistics to highlight attacks on Dalits and cited the incidents at Una in Gujarat, and the killing of two Dalits in Uttar Pradesh to show that there is an increase in the number of such incidents. Kharge said: “Every 18 minutes a crime is committed against the Dalits. Every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits murdered, and two Dalit houses are burnt in India. Eleven Dalits are beaten (every day). Every week, 13 Dalits are murdered, five Dalit homes or possessions are burnt (and) six Dalits are kidnapped or abducted.”
Demanding a ban on vigilante groups such as ‘Gau Rakshak Sangh’, the Congress MP alleged that they have become a law unto themselves and were being encouraged by BJP governments in different states. Kharge also attacked the Sangh Parivar and alleged that their members, and those of the BJP, are also involved in such incidents. “Such incidents can happen only when they have the government’s support,” he said, and referred to reports that a Dalit couple was hacked to death in UP on Thursday.
Citing national crime data to take on the government, he said one crime against Dalit takes place every 80 minutes, three Dalits are raped and two murdered every day. “You (government) will say that it had been happening earlier too, but it has risen after you came to power. It has your support,” Kharge said, drawing support from the TMC.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, however, maintained that it was a law and order issue and a state matter. “The Madhya Pradesh government has acted swiftly and effectively. Investigation is being done. I assure the House that justice will be done and the guilty not spared,” he told the House.
Unhappy over his response, Opposition members, including those of the Congress, TMC and the Left, walked out.
The Mandsaur issue had rocked the Upper House on Wednesday, with BSP leader Mayawati and the Congress accusing vigilante groups of targeting women in the name of protecting cows.