Narendra Modi warns gau rakshaks: Words don’t count for much; PM must pull up chief ministers of BJP-ruled states
The cow vigilante controversy is headed in the same frivolous direction. If there was real seriousness on either side, Narendra Modi would be kept out of the picture and questions would be asked to the chief ministers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi came down hard on the gau rakshaks. The words he uttered on Thursday were harsh. The rant media, as usual, went over the top, reminding us repeatedly that a stern message had indeed been conveyed to the rogues. From now on, they had us believe, the rakshak gangs would scurry for cover, tails firmly tucked between their legs, and the world would be a happier place.
Really? It is a question that begs an answer.
It is difficult to question the intent of the prime minister. Given the good speaker that he is, he had his emphasis right and the right words in place. But do they mean much without visible action? Obviously not. And he is not the one who would be carrying the lathi and chasing away the vigilantes. The job has to be done by the police and the state governments. Unless the latter is serious nothing much is going to change. Of course, it needs to be underlined that his intent may not be the intent of the Sangh Parivar, which holds the cause of the cow close to its heart.
We know all this. What’s the noise about Modi speaking out on the issue then?
The response to his remark falls under two simple categories – the celebratory and the dismissive. Those under the first appeared in indecent hurry to absolve the prime minister of any guilt in the controversy involving cow protectors, and the other were quick to arraign him for not doing enough and in some way being responsible for the problem. It finally, like all issues in recent time, revolved around Modi. The real question of law enforcement at a level much below that of the prime minister was never really the point of discussion.
It is quite similar to the futile debate over sexual harassment of women, where everything, including the patriarchal mindset of the male population to the social background of the perpetrator to the quantum of punishment, is furiously debated, but not the very mundane solution called good policing. This debate is primarily media entertainment these days. The cow vigilante controversy is headed in the same frivolous direction. If there was real seriousness on either side, Modi would be kept out of the picture and questions would be asked to the chief ministers. Interestingly, there have not been many put to them.
Gau rakshaks would not mind that at all. They can go about attacking and killing people. By now they know they have political parties in a tangle. If the latter oppose them they are damned, if they don’t then it’s a happy situation for them. It’s only good for them if political parties focus their attack on Modi. The prime minister himself would not mind the situation either. He has done his bit quite well, addressing the constituency that wanted him to speak and speak strongly. He brought in Mahatma Gandhi into the picture to good effect. Critics would crib but they don’t matter.
Where does that leave the victims – potential and actual — of gau rakshaks? Angry, helpless, defeated and frustrated. There’s precious little they can do to change their situation. It is worse that they are trapped in the Hindu-Muslim narrative. A simple crime involving an attack or harassment is now more likely to take a communal colour, exposing entire communities to risk. They would love it if the prime minister went beyond words and made a firm commitment to protecting them. Since most incidents of vigilante violence are reported from BJP-ruled states, he should issue firm directives to the chief ministers. If it’s difficult under federal principles, he can do it on the basis of the authority he commands in the party.
It would indeed be great step forward, something with substance.
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