When did you first read stories of cow vigilantes? When did Indian Muslims first begin to be killed over this issue and when did we first begin to brutalise Dalits over it? I suspect that like me you did not read of cow vigilantism before this government signalled intent and then state governments like Maharashtra and Haryana began introducing laws in March 2015. This triggered something that began the violence, and Mohammed Akhlaq was murdered in September 2015. So what did the change in laws trigger? Why did you not read of cow vigilantism in India before that, if the cow has always been holy and revered by Hindus? And why are we reading so regularly about it these days that barely a week goes by without incident?
I’ll come to that in a bit. Now that we are aware of causality, we should be concerned about the fallout of a new law that the government introduced on Friday, May 26. In brief, the rules allowing how cattle (including buffaloes) may be sold for slaughter have been changed to make it very difficult, if not impossible, to conduct a meat business. Where the sale may happen, who may make the sale, why the sale is happening and what sort of animal may be sold, all of this is being regulated.
And it will have to be reported, meaning those dealing with cattle now have to do lots of paperwork. Ostensibly the reason is to control disease and hygiene, but you have to be particularly innocent to believe that.There will, of course, be an economic fallout of this. I am not discussing that here. The fallout that I’d like to focus on is that of the violence that it is guaranteed to bring down on Muslims and Dalits.
To turn to the point made at the start.What did the change in laws trigger and why did the gau rakshaks suddenly turn violent and why are they not stopping their violence? To under stand that, let us look at a similar country (so similar that it used to once be India). Blasphemy was once a religious crime that produced no violence in Pakistan. From 1927 to 1947 (in all of undivided India) and from 1947 to 1986 (in Pakistan), a total of only seven cases of blasphemy were registered. But in the 25 years after 1986, over 1,000 cases were registered in Pakistan, mostly against minorities. And many of the accused are today lynched by mobs before trial or even arrest.What changed in 1986? The law. What used to be an offence punishable by a jail term of a few years was changed to an offence punishable by death.This change in the law highlighted, emphasised and criminalised the `otherness’ of minorities that were already hated and despised. Non-Muslims, who are 4% of Pakistan’s population, are 57% of those charged with blasphemy . The change in law legitimised the violence.

The same thing is happening in India under the BJP’s legal and RSS’ cultural gau raksha pro gramme. The Hindutvawadi will be loath to accept the parallel though it is obvious. He may not even understand the causality .

Union minister Nitin Gadkari said on May 25 that though he supported gau raksha, he did not support gau rakshaks. In his words: “they’re not our people.“ Of course, they’re not. Those made apoplectic by distinctions between good terrorists and bad terrorists now make a distinction between good Hindutvawadis and bad Hindutvawadis. How difficult is it to understand that if you keep pushing gau raksha what you will get is gau rakshaks?
This understanding of causality seems to be missing in the BJP pathologically . They will rouse a mob of lakhs and then be surprised when it pulls down a monument and 2,000 Indians are killed. A member of Parliament, Paresh Rawal (disclaimer: he is a family friend of 40 years) casually encourages violence against a dissenting writer in a country where rule of law is weak and where there is news of lynchings and mob killings every week. One could well suspect that it is not stupidity or ignorance of causality that is the motivation, but something more cynical and bordering on evil.

In March this year, Gujarat announced a change in the sentence for cow slaughter. From seven years in jail, the cow murderer would now get a life term. The conviction rate in India is pretty low and it’s unlikely to be a deterrent. But it will be helpful in encouraging gau rakshaks.

In August 2016, the Prime Minister nobly offered that gau rakshaks should kill him instead of Dalits. I was moved to tears. But if he really wants to stop violence he should consider what started it. It is indisputable that gau rakshak violence was triggered by the gau raksha laws.

That’s why, in the matter of Hindutva’s continuing cow obsession, I will predict one fallout of the new law of Friday: more animals may or may not be saved but more Indians will certainly be slaughtered.

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