PM Has Political Mandate to Walk the Talk on Cow Vigilantism
After the UP polls, Prime Minister has emerged much stronger, both within the party and the Sangh parivaar. Now the PM has a political mandate to walk the talk on Cow Vigilantism.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
New Delhi: It was a Town Hall to mark two years of the government's flagship online platform to connect with citizens. Held in Delhi's Talkatora Stadium in the first week of August last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest when he used the occasion to rebuke cow vigilantism in no uncertain terms.
State governments should prepare a dossier of gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes), said the PM. "Around 70-80 percent are involved in activities that have no place in the society. They, therefore, don the mantle of gau rakshaks to hide their ills," Modi had added.
This was the Prime Minister breaking his silence after pictures of Dalits being flogged at Una, Gujarat by cow vigilantes embarrassed the government.
The quantification — "as high as 80 percent" —seemed to have caused a flutter in the BJP's ideological fount, the RSS. A day later, the Sangh issued a statement from its headquarters in Nagpur underscoring that only a "handful" indulged in anti-social activities, while an overwhelming majority were law abiding. The statement came from none other than RSS’s second-in-command and general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi.
A day later, Modi had to clarify on the subject. He spoke about "fake cow-protectors" at a rally in Telangana. But this time, the PM also quantified such elements as just a "handful".
Two months later, at the annual Vijayadashami function in Nagpur, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat dedicated an entire paragraph to cow protection. Countless good people working in the field should not be compared with a few trouble makers, he said. "Countless good people are working for cow protection. These good people are working within the ambit of law and Constitution. Administration should see to it that those creating trouble should not be compared with cow protectors," he added.
The choice of occasion and the person to deliver the message was clearly well thought.
"Many of our cadre are associated with cow protection. And they should not be unnecessarily troubled by local administration," said an RSS leader on condition of anonymity.
The Prime Minister's statement on cow vigilantes last year was also seen in the backdrop of the impending Uttar Pradesh polls where the BJP was attempting to wean away a section of Dalit votes from the BSP.
At the political level, two large social groups are generally at the receiving end of the cow vigilantism — Dalits and Muslims. Some sub-castes in these communities have been traditionally associated with skinning and disposing of animal carcasses. The two together also constitute 30 to 50% of the total electorate in many provinces. Their social and electoral coalition is, thus, formidable. To this end, both the BJP and the RSS have worked hard to adopt a more inclusive social image.
On cow vigilantism and public lynching, Prime Minister Modi has intervened once again. He's invoked Vinobha Bhave and Mahatma Gandhi. Except for Gujarat, there are no elections lined up this year. Political constraints have loosened up over the last six months.
After the UP polls, Prime Minister has emerged much stronger, both within the party and the Sangh parivaar. He has the political authority as the head of an elected government to carry the message through.
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