The so-called Cow Protection campaign has become the leitmotif of right wing extremists’ dream of realizing their violent designs against minorities. In its second year now, it is beginning to hurt the BJP itself. The campaign has indeed come to touch its nadir. It is clear that the campaign is basically divisive in its nature, intent and purpose. It was basically aimed at identifying minorities, particularly Muslims, as ‘cow killers’ and thus targeting them with violence. But what is now apparent is that it is recoiling upon the perpetrators. People from several other sections are getting drawn into the vortex of violence, especially, Dalits who are traditionally assigned the task of disposing off the carcasses of dead cattle and many industries such as leather and leather goods for whom skins are the basic raw material.
From Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Una in Gujarat, the trail of blood marks the freedom with which the vigilantes are running amok, usurping authority and browbeating the minorities into submission of their dictates. It is no healthy sign for a country as diverse as India where food choices are diverse and difficult to be straitjacketed. Cow slaughter is banned in several states of the country and is implemented strictly. But the law leaves enough scope for even those who survive on oxen and buffaloes to be victimized, especially when the powers that be are known to dividing the society in the name of religion, caste and community. All such laws have the effect of creating categories of citizens, privileging a few and rendering others as vulnerable at best and suspects at worst.
Economics of meat, exports and leather apart, it is evident from a report being carried elsewhere in this issue that implementation of such laws becomes a priority of unwarranted seriousness for those in Police who seek proximity to the power wielders. No wonder then why pleas to restrain those taking the law into their hands are falling on deaf ears. If India were to be really free for people to practice their faith, speak their language, follow their food, dressing choices and culture, then it will be imperative to carry out a scrutiny of all such laws that render a few sections of people less patriotic than others and provide a handle for some to implicate them.
The free run enjoyed by the vigilantes is undermining the authority of law and those who should legitimately exercise it. Moral policing is fraught with risks and is all likely to curtail freedoms and liberties of citizens enshrined in the Constitution. The BJP runs the risks of losing sympathy of several more sections of people if it fails to rein in its cohorts. It is time it throws away the monochromatic lenses to view India and perceived the Indian reality in a larger perspective. We need to take lessons from our western neighbour which embarked upon a highly obscurantist view of religion and is paying for its sins.