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Is It Really About Beef, Though? 

Modiji, you can either have your beef vigilantism or your foreign investment. You cannot have both.

Published
India
5 min read
A butcher cuts up portions of beef for sale in an abattoir at a wholesale market in Mumbai, May 11, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The recent overdrive of the Haryana Police, presumably on the instructions of the state government, to check for beef allegedly mixed in biryani consumed or sold in the state’s Mewat region on the cusp of Eid-al-Adha has yet again triggered an unfortunate controversy and consummates an equally tragic tale of events.

Carcasses of cows in Mewat. 
Carcasses of cows in Mewat. 

If what happened on the intervening night of 24 and 25 August of 2016 in the village of Dingerheri is true – that two men were murdered, another two critically injured and two women were gang raped by members of the Gau Raksha Samiti (Cow protection committee) – and the fact that the police is working overtime to sweep the facts under the carpet, it only serves to underscore the warped sense of priorities of the BJP government and its instrumentalities.

Why the Silence Now, Modiji?

One of the two victims poignantly related at a press conference in Lutyens Delhi: “They (attackers) asked us ‘you eat cow meat? We said no’. They said ‘you eat cow meat’. They said ‘we are killing you because you eat cow.’ We told this to the police but they are not doing anything.”

Why is the silence of the Prime Minister so deafening barely a month after he grandiloquently declared at a town hall interaction: “It makes me angry that people are running shops in the name of cow protection. Most of them are anti-social elements hiding behind the mask of cow protection…I will ask state governments to prepare a dossier on such people as 80 percent will be found involved in anti-social activities which no society would approve of.”

The Rajasthan government has introduced a chapter on the cow for class V students. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
The Rajasthan government has introduced a chapter on the cow for class V students. (Photo: The Quint)

Simply translated, it means that the Prime Minister believes eighty percent of these gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) are goondas.

Now, Modiji some of these goondas you have referred to have allegedly butchered two people, critically injured two more, and criminally assaulted two young women barely 50 kilometers from your residence in New Delhi but there is not even a tweet from you? Assertive action is a long shot; action condemning this barbaric and heinous assault that strikes at the very root of the idea of India i.e. freedom of culinary choice that is a part of the Right to Life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution that you have sworn to protect and defend four times as Chief Minister and once as the Prime Minister.

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The Story Doesn’t Add Up

The Haryana Gauvansh Sanarkshan and Gausamvardhan Act 2015 is yet to be tested on the touchstone of its constitutionality. Even if it is held intra-vires by any court of law, how would it square up with the judicial pronouncements of various Indian courts? For instance, most recently, the Bombay High Court on 7 May this year, held that a ban on imported beef (in this case from outside Maharashtra) would be an “infringement of the right to privacy which is a fundamental right.”

The Bombay High Court further laid down that under Article21 of the Constitution, citizens are protected from unnecessary state intrusion into their homes. The court also struck down a provision in the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act 1976 which put the burden of proof on the person found to be in possession of beef. The court declared that this too infringes on the fundamental rights of a person.

Cow slaughter is completely banned in Maharashtra while possession and consumption of beef brought from outside the state is permissable. (Picture Courtesy: Reuters)
Cow slaughter is completely banned in Maharashtra while possession and consumption of beef brought from outside the state is permissable. (Picture Courtesy: Reuters)

Which is why the actions of the Haryana Police are even more bizarre; their story simply doesn’t add up. Rather than investigating a complaint of alleged cow slaughter and then trying to establish a nexus between its consumption or sale, the state, in the absence of a valid complaint or possibly on the basis of trumped up complaints, is going sniffing around in biryani handis with the clear intent of intimidating and terrorising an already subjugated and fearful minority.

Thus, it can only be concluded this is not about beef, it is about majoritarianism. Ever since the BJP government took office at the center, there has been a continuous and calibrated attempt to demonise the minorities, particularly the Muslims. From Ghar-Wapsi to Love Jihad, statements declaring that minorities are second-rate citizens to defining nationalism in pulp patriotic terms and the ubiquitous beef bans are attempts to impose a warped right wing template on the nation.

It is an attempt to anchor the public discourse ninety degrees to the right. It is an attempt to demolish the pluralistic idea of India and replace it with a theocratic ethos. It is an attempt to validate the two-nation theory of Jinnah. It is an attempt to Pakistanise India.
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RSS-BJP’s Age-Old ‘Divide and Rule’ Trick

Then, there is the cynical political imperative that the RSS-BJP believes in- that polarization fetches electoral dividends. The lynching of Mohammad Iqlakh in Dadri (UP) during the Bihar elections on the ostensible insinuation that he possessed beef and the subsequent front-page advertisements by the BJP extolling the cow was perhaps the crudest manifestation of desperation for gains at the hustings. The fact that the electorate of Bihar repudiated these attempts at ghoulish politics does not seem to have taught the ‘powers that be’ in New Delhi, a lesson.

The recent incidents of Quran-tearing in Malerkotla in Punjab – a place protected by the divine benediction of the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singhji which remained largely peaceful even during the darkest hours of the Partition when all of Punjab burned in the fire of communal frenzy – and now the state sponsored beef vigilantism in Haryana, are both aimed at splitting society in neighboring Uttar Pradesh that has an unfortunate communal past.

For there are hardly any Muslims in Punjab to bring about any significant polarization that can pay electoral dividends. It is a ‘Mohammad Iqlakh Part II’ now being played out in Haryana with Uttar Pradesh as the target just as Dadri was sought to be made the flash point for Bihar by abusing the power of the hyper-media age that we live in.

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What the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Haryana do not understand is that coming as it does after the alleged mass rapes in Haryana during the Jat agitation that are being enquired into by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the deluge that drowned out Gurgaon, it is sending a signal to the world that mayhem and anarchy are omnipresent in the immediate vicinity of the national capital.

Narendra Modi must remember money is the biggest coward – it finds the safest haven. It does not go to places where chaos and anarchy prevail. You can either have your beef vigilantism or your foreign investment. You cannot have both.

(The writer is a Lawyer and a Former Union Minister. The views expressed in the articles are personal to the author. He tweets @manishtewari.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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