IN FIRST remarks this year on incidents of lynchings by self-styled ‘gau rakshaks’ in different parts of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday that killing people in the name of protecting the cow was “unacceptable” and went against the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Prime Minister’s remarks came a day after protests under the tagline ‘Not In My Name’ were staged in various cities, with participants condemning the incidents of lynching in the name of religion, and a week after Junaid Khan, a 15-year-old, was stabbed on a train in Haryana.
Addressing a public meeting to mark the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram, the Prime Minister said, “What are we doing? Cow protection and cow worship is something that Mahatma Gandhi and Vinobha Bhave spoke about. Both of them have showed us how to do it and that is the route the country has to take for its progress.”
Modi added, “Killing people in the name of gau bhakti is not acceptable. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve. It is not the message that Vinobha Bhave’s life would give us.”
Then, referring to the 150th birth anniversary of Jain spiritual leader Shrimad Rajchandra, known as Gandhi’s guru, Modi said, “And that is why, on the centenary celebrations of the ashram and the birth anniversary of Shrimadji, I want to say that we are a land of non-violence. We are the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Violence never has and will never solve any problem.”
Modi had first spoken on violence by gau rakshaks last August, when he said that a majority of such vigilantes were “anti-social” elements “running shops” in the name of cow protection.
While those remarks came against the background of the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in UP’s Dadri over suspicions of storing beef in 2015, his latest comments follow a number of such incidents this year, including the killing of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer, in Alwar.
On Thursday, Modi prefaced his comments on cow protection by saying that he wanted to “express my sadness and my pain, when I am here at the Sabarmati ashram”.
“I am talking about the present situation in the country and expressing my anger and pain. A country which believes in even feeding an ant, stray dogs and in the morning goes to lakes and feeds fish, a country which has such a culture, a country in which Mahatma has taught us lesson of non-violence. What has happened to us?” he said.
“If a patient dies due to an unsuccessful operation, relatives burn down hospitals and beat up doctors. An accident is an accident. When people die or are injured in accidents, a group of people come together and burn vehicles,” he said.
During his speech, the Prime Minister also recalled a conversation he had with Vinoba Bhave on the issue of cow protection.
“I had the good fortune of meeting Vinobhaji once and he looked at me and said mar jao, mar jao (die, die). I was shocked as to why he was saying ‘mar jao’ to me. He then told me, ‘gai ke liye mar jao’ (die for the cow),” said Modi.
He further narrated an instance from his childhood when a cow accidentally killed a five-year-old boy in his village. “The cow gave up eating and died in remorse, for killing the boy, in front of the parents’ home,” said Modi.
Concluding his speech, the Prime Minister said, “Let us all work together. Let us all create the India of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams. Let us create an India our freedom fighters would be proud of.”
Also present at the event was Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who said that Gandhi would have opted for “dharma parivartan (conversion to another religion)” had it not been for Shrimad Rajchandra. Ela Bhatt, chairperson of the Sabarmati Ashram trust and founder of SEWA, appealed for “upholding Gandhian values of satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence)”.
At the ashram, Modi also tried his hand at the charkha, took a tour of the premises, and released a special postal stamp and commemorative coin to mark the birth anniversary of Shrimad Rajchandra.
During his two-day visit to Gujarat, the Prime Minister is also scheduled to attend programmes in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Modasa and Gandhinagar.