Who resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, democratic republic on November 26, 1949? We, the People of India, or We, the Cows of some states of India? Does the protection of cow override the fundamental rights of Dalits and Muslims as the citizens of this nation?
From Jhajjar to Jharkhand, from Dadri to Latehar and from Una to Alwar, a reign of terror in the name of cow protection has spread in some states in the country. Irrespective of the veracity of the claims – real, rumoured or WhatsApped – of the criminal mobs bent on taking law into their politically protected hands, the moment an Akhlaq in Dadri or a Naeem in Shobhapur is justified in dettol-sanitised TV studios, the cause for lynching becomes arbitrary.
Any alleged harm to the cause of cow protection has suddenly become reason enough to justify street-level mafia-style instant justice at the hands of a mob baying for human blood and bones. No proof needs to be provided and no legal procedures to be followed. If a mob suddenly decides one fine morning that the cow is being wronged, it can chase anyone, drag them out of their houses and kill them.
As organised criminal squads roam India’s highways inspecting livestock trucks for any trace of the animal and terrorise citizens of this country, the Supreme Court has issued notices to Rajasthan along with five other Indian states namely Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka and to the central government asking for a ban on such groups.
Every week mobs are lynching, torturing and humiliating innocent Muslims and Dalits in the name and under the pretext of cow protection. They have unleashed a reign of terror. And the police have turned inaction into an art form. Their ability and willingness to turn a blind eye to the organised criminal activities of the so-called cow protectors has ended up making the organised gangs and their leaders confident enough to commit crimes in full public view and film their heinous acts with their smartphones for publicity.
This criminal behaviour is not an offspring of an unanticipated emotional hour, the abrupt outburst of uncontrolled anger, or the irrational brutality of an insane mob. It represents the contrived, cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent criminals who know that they’ll get away with their inhuman deeds and that they have enough political and police protectors to take care of the legal consequences.
Talking about the law, let’s remember this.
All cows are created equal, but cows born in Karnal or Kanpur or Alwar are more equal than cows born in Kochi or Kohima or Imphal.
In Haryana, the maximum sentence for a convicted rapist is three years less than for a cow-slaughtering offence. As many as 67 cases per day of crimes against women are being recorded these days, but the truth is that molesting a woman is a smaller offence than being in possession of beef.
Haryana, second only to Uttar Pradesh, in the number of complaints against the police, can take credit for another indicator. Over the last 15 years, crimes against Scheduled Castes in Haryana have shown a seven-fold increase, second only to Rajasthan in absolute numbers.
Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are in good company. Jharkhand is fast catching up. Perhaps the police leaders in these states believe that silence is not only golden, it leads to a goldmine for their careers as well.
As a member of the Indian Police Service myself, I have, in fact, a few questions for my fellow officers in these states:
How many of you saw that photograph of the young man from East Singhbhum, Jharkhand – blood trickling down his head and drenching his white vest, hands together in supplication and eyes filled with fear — pleading for mercy and struggling to convince those hunting him that he is innocent?
Did you avert your gaze? Did you look at his eyes? Did you look and not feel sick with bile that rose in your mouth? Did you look and argue What, If, What If and But? Did you feel his indignities in your bones? Did he remind you of Qutubuddin Ansari, whose pleading image in front of a rioting mob in Gujarat in 2002 became the face of one of independent India’s worst communal episodes?
His name was Mohammed Naeem and he was the father of three children. He cried like a helpless infant about to be mauled by a group of mad dogs. They lynched him anyway, in Shobhapur, less than an hour’s drive from Jamshedpur. Another group of three men were killed less than 20 kms away in a string of raids triggered by rumours about child kidnapping gangs. The police reached the spot before the last of the fatal blows landed on him. Their inaction follows a familiar pattern.
Question is, what makes men kill other men even if they don’t like what they eat ? When did the mob start meting out morality, trashing the Constitution which refuses to distinguish between citizens on the basis of identity? And why are these lynch-mobs, masquerading as cow-protection groups, growing by the day?
As we celebrate the 70th year of independence a few weeks from now, let us recall the nature of the freedom struggle that became the bedrock of the Constitution. We swore to become a sovereign, secular, democratic republic and have tried to keep the faith for decades. Until now. Today the sanctity accorded to the most precious right of all, the fundamental right to life, under Article 21, is under grave threat.
But We, the People, are and must remain sovereign. The cows, on the other hand, must go back to where they belong, in a ‘gaushala.’