Zakir Musa may be inconsequential, but govt must be alert to destructive potential of gau rakshaks
It is tempting to treat the purported call of Zakir Musa – former Hizbul Mujahideen militant and now someone trying hard to give the trouble in Kashmir a strictly Islamic colour – to the Muslims of India to launch jihad against cow vigilantes with some disdain.
It is tempting to treat the purported call of Zakir Musa – former Hizbul Mujahideen militant and now someone trying hard to give the trouble in Kashmir a strictly Islamic colour – to the Muslims of India to launch jihad against cow vigilantes with some disdain. After all, the Muslim community in India has shown no inclination to be swayed by such calls earlier and Musa is too insignificant a character to influence its opinion.
His exhortation that the conflict in Kashmir be treated as a religious, not political, one has met with rebuff from all important stakeholders in the Valley including the Hurriyat and even the militant outfit Hizbul to which he originally belonged. His traction among local Kashmiris is limited, forget his power to make the community respond to him across the country.
But then his call should be approached with care. He nuances it with emphasis on gau rakshaks. He makes a general call for fight against infidels but stresses more on Muslims getting united to fight back tormentors. He does not make it sound like a war cry against the government’s recent policy on cattle. He mentions the amount of blood being spilled in the name of protection of the cow and exhorts the community to exact revenge. He appears to be trying to exploit the anger against the action of cow vigilantes against Muslims and garnishes with a few other stray incidents where Muslims have been victims.
He could be laughed off but there can be no denying that the cow vigilantes have provided those trying to instigate the community into violent action a potent handle. The government looking the other way as the former continue unhindered with no sense of fear only aggravates the matter. The situation can get particularly volatile in places like Kashmir where resentment against the government runs high. Militants desperately trying to give the conflict the shape of a religious war may make cow their rallying call. It’s ironical, but the humble cow could become the greatest polarising agent in the country, the most unusual source of a potential vicious cycle of violence.
The point here is not to draw an apocalyptic picture based on the four-minute audio message attributed to Musa but to highlight the possible dangerous repercussions of the activities of the cow vigilantes. Musa makes his intention clear when he says Muslims should be ashamed of their cowardice and their refusal to raise their voice against injustice. The actions of cow vigilantes and the state’s reluctance to rein them amplifies the aspect of injustice and unfairness. When a community as a whole is convinced that it is being treated unfairly, the reaction could be explosive. Musa’s message is aimed at pushing them towards that feeling. There could be others following him soon.
It’s clear that no one loves those cow protectors. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has called most of them anti-social elements who “commit crimes all night and don the garb of gau rakshaks in the day.” Not many right-wingers see these people as healthy for the ideological cause. But the general repulsion against them has not resulted any visible tough action. From Akhlaq in Dadri to Pehlu Khan in Alwar they continue their vigilantism. The aim of which is not necessarily protection of cow but intimidation of the minority community. Does anybody really want them to flourish? Well, if there’s a larger design it is not discernible yet.
But if the government is really serious about controlling them, it should send the message loud and clear. There’s anger in the Muslim community. It is better it is not allowed to take a dangerous turn. Otherwise, people like Musa would step in to fish in troubled waters.
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