Vigilante violence

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The shocking incident of mob violence by gaurakshaks in Bulandshahar on Monday, resulting in the death of one civilian and a cop, is a reflection of the deepening of the shameful trend of mob lynchings. At the same time it also confirms the suspicions about the methodical madness that is being perpetrated in the name of cow protection by Hindu right wing groups. The emerging pattern of the functioning of cow protectionists now involves not just attacks on the minorities particularly Muslims but also the police which may try to subvert their designs. That the Bulandshahar cop Subodh Singh was the investigating officer in the first case of lynching in Dadri and had arrested the accused in the case; and that he was shot at by the mobs reveals that such incidents are not mere coincidences triggered by mere rumours but are pre-meditated acts of criminal nature. While frenzied mobs are mobilized in the name of rumours of beef and cow slaughter, there appears to be sufficient evidence to show the pre-planned nature of this brazen Hindutva militancy which is disrupting the peace of the society and is an onslaught on its secular values and the constitution. On Monday, villagers from Mahaw village in Bulandshahar went on a rampage following rumours of alleged cow carcasses in the nearby forest areas and began attacking the minority community with stones. The police which arrived at the spot and tried to intervene to restore law and order was attacked as mobs engaged in arson, set ablaze several vehicles and a police post and also shot at a cop. From lynchings, the mobs appear to be graduating systemically to the use of weaponry to further deepen the atmosphere of panic and fear as well as to ensure that the law keeping agencies are disabled from protecting the innocent victims. The brazen manner in which the cow vigilantes act has given rise to misplaced notion that any act of transporting cows is smuggling and that sight of any dead cow amounts to slaughter. This is a bizarre argument. According to rough estimates, 39 people have been killed in cow-related violence in India since 2014 when the BJP came to power. The Narendra Modi led government has miserably failed to stop the violence carried out by Hindutva groups in the name of cow slaughter, Love Jehad or any such pretext against religious minorities, including Muslims and Dalits. The government has played a major role in promoting such a culture of lynching and violence, not only with its tacit silence, barring one or two odd occasions of feeble condemnations, its ministers have been openly patronizing and honouring those accused of lynching and elevating them to the status of ‘heroes’. A culture of lauding such violent participants and a pattern of impunity accorded to them through use of political and official influence is pushing the minorities of the country to the brink. Such trends are inconsistent with the pluralistic and democratic values of India and its constitution. The government throwing its weight behind cow protectionism, rather than protecting of people, and the cow slaughter related laws not only restrict religious freedom of the minorities but also serve as a catalyst for vigilante violence and lynching perpetrated against minorities including Muslims and Dalits on mere mob accusations of smuggling or slaughtering cows. The trend is far more dangerous than the marginalisation of minorities that is sought to be perpetuated. The cover of impunity provided to cow vigilantes has emboldened not just the Hindu right wing militants but also the disconnected criminalized elements who have used lynching as an excuse to settle scores, spread panic and makes lives of any civilian vulnerable on baseless pretexts of theft, child abductions or anything else. The government which is mindlessly promoting such a trend should be aware that the genie it has unleashed may come to haunt the entire country hugely, even its own men, like the Frankenstein that could not be tamed by its creator.