The 2015 Dadri mob lynching case shook the nation to its core. A 52-year old Muslim man was put to death, and his son was seriously injured by an angry mob of cow vigilante. This attack was carried out on the suspicion cooking cow meat at his home. With this incident, the cow protection groups have once again surfaced to many other different regions in India, which resulted in many such events of savage beating and torturing to people from other communities in the name of cow and religion. A group of cow vigilante called Gau Raksha Dal publicly assaulted, stripped and flogged few Dalits claiming that they were killing and skinning the cow. So, in a span of a year, the cow vigilantism has gone out of the control. Whatever started from Dadri has kindled a flame of ignorance and communalism.
In this article, we are going to discuss and understand this issue thoroughly. We will talk about these infamous incidents, their legality, the causes behind such groups and what can be done by government and us to deal with this scenario and maintain communal harmony in our society.

Why is cow important in Hindu religion?

Hindus consider cow as Gau-Mata, who is sacred and deeply respected. From ancient times, the masses have relied on the cow for dairy products and cow dung as a source of fuel and fertilizer. In India, the cow is seen as the gentle maternal figure. In Hindu, community cow is considered as a symbol of one who gives and feeds.
But the other side of this coin is very different. In previous times, the primary food of communities considered as untouchables was the dead cow meat. Such communities also take part in skinning cows and manufacture articles of her skin and bones.
Why some Indian communities follow the practice of beef-eating?
The important fact to be understood that the practice of beef eating and skinning the dead cow amongst the low castes was mere result many different reasons. One of such reason is the ill-practice of caste-system followed by the Hindu society. Here are some reasons,
A) Dietary needs: Beef is the cheap source of protein and vitamins. A lot of weaker sections of the society cannot afford the other sources of meat as they are very expensive.
B) Livelihood: A large chunk of the muslim minority is associated with the meat business for centuries. They are in the business of selling meat and in leather products business. The Dalit communities were carrying the practice of removing the cow skin for many centuries. Even the economical weaker farmers sell their old unproductive cattle as the economic burden of providing for them is quite high.
C) Caste barriers: Since the ancient times, the eating beef and skinning the dead cows was considered as an occupation of Dalit community. The practice of caste-system was evident in the Hindu society which always kept the lower castes out of the mainstream. These lower castes were never part of the community, and they were usually kept outside the villages. Lower masses were forbidden from agricultural practices and left with no choice to rely on dietary sources such as beef.
These reasons were evident in the alienation of the minorities, which in turn led to the communal disharmony in India.

What does constitution say about cow protection?
So, before discussing anything else, let us discuss the law and the legality of such action by cow vigilantes. Under the directive principles of state policy given in Indian Constitution, the Article 48 mentions the prohibition on the slaughter of cows other than milch and draught cattle. Apart from this, The “Preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases, veterinary training and practice” is Entry 15 of the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Due to which Indian states have the right to make laws related to anti-cow slaughter in their respective states. Many Indian states have banned the cow slaughter and other practices mentioned above like skinning the dead cows. Few Indian states like Tripura, Kerala, Mizoram, Meghalaya, etc. have not put any restrictions on cow slaughter.
So, considering the Constitution, Article 48 is mentioned under the directive principles of state policy. These principles are moral obligations; they cannot be forced and considered as an offense if not followed. The reason behind this is that enforcing directive principles as laws can be impractical as executing them efficiently. The directive principles are idealistic in nature, and if enforced, they might clog the judicial system with abundant petitions.
Most importantly, such laws will be arbitrary in nature as they will clash with the fundamental rights given in the constitution. Consider that hypothetical situation where government authorities are raiding kitchen of every household and punishing people for eating beef! We all know that it is next to impossible and wrong on many accounts.

What is the reality behind the current cow-vigilantism spurred in India? 

As the veteran author, Amartya Sen denotes, ‘India is a country of misplaces priorities.’ Currently, We are facing grave economic issues and issue of women security now. The government and society are required to look forward to participating in inclusive and sustainable growth in India; rather we are focusing on creating a culture of banning things, whether they are books, meat, etc. Lets us discuss how things took a wrong turn after Dadri mob lynching and incited this ideology,
A) The Dadri lynching incident shocked the nation and created a wave of discussion. The aftermath of this incident was not handled the way it should have been. The stir it caused, could have been used to educate people with strong views of government and political mass leaders. But our PM stayed silent and never took a firm stand on the violence and cow-vigilantism.
B) Rather, after few months in the Bihar elections, this issue was politicized and eventually caused a rift amongst two communities.
C) Many leaders were found supporting such violence were never shunned by their superiors or party high commands, rather the advent of communalization continued without any disturbance. This led to increasing in ranks of cow vigilantes and the instances of taking law in their hand.
D) All this result in the infamous Una incident and incident of beating two Muslim women. This eventually caused former Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel her post.
E) Currently, Our PM has taken a very strict and unambiguous position on the occurrence of cow-vigilantes in India.

As a citizen of a secular and democratic where do we stand? 

As a citizen of a secular and democratic country, we need to take a certain stand to keep the social harmony intact. The current cow vigilantism is based on communalism and violence of the worst degree. The issue is kept boiling my many fundamental religious outfits for political gains. It is done to cause a huge polarization amongst the various communities in India to gather political support.
The so-called cow vigilantes are breaking laws and breaching fundamental rights to a high degree. Many of which are found to be the extortionist’s groups who are attacking vehicles and people for money. This sectarian agenda started by many political parties has now gone off their control. The self-proclaimed groups are posing a threat to law and order in many states. In all this disarray, the cow is becoming a victim along with the minorities. The post mortem of many cows reports that the reason of death is due to eating an excessive amount of polyethylene in the garbage. The reports of the death of many of cows in Rajasthan and Maharashtra can be read in newspapers.
In short, it’s up to your rationality to decide what to believe and not to. The Indian community is inclusive and has maintained its social harmony for centuries. As a citizen, we should discard the notion of false emotional propaganda and try to look beyond. The cow vigilantism is not a cry for Hindu Hegemony, but it is, in reality, it is for upper caste hegemony to target minorities for political gains. On the other hand, few groups are opposing the vigilantism by glamorizing the extreme methods such as creating beef festivals. If a large chunk of our society is sentimental about the cows, such glorification can be avoided. We should be liberal towards each other and respect other communities. Such issues should be replaced with fundamental issues like poverty, women empowerment, unemployment, etc., where we should come together and led a collective fight.


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About the Author

Akshay Palande

Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.

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