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Mainstream, VOL LV No 37 New Delhi September 2, 2017

Gau-rakshaks or Nar-bhakshaks

Saturday 2 September 2017, by Ashok Celly

Last two or three years have witnessed an extremely disburbing development in Indian politics, that is, the emergence of extra-constitu-tional centres of power in the form of Gau-rakshaks. These so-called protectors of cows don’t hesitate to take the law in their hands and go about bullying, ‘punishing’, even killing people on the barest suspicion that they are bee-featers. They have thus made a mockery of the rule of law. Only once in 70 years of independence was such a phenomenon wit-nessed and that too during the Emergency. An over-enthusiastic young man called Sanjay Gandhi, who had no official position but enjoyed the backing of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, played havoc with the democratic institutions of this country. Now we have hundreds of Sanjay Gandhis known as Gau-rakshaks running amok and striking terror in the hearts of the Muslims. And governance is supposed to be the USP of the present political dispensation!

It seems to me that these so-called Gau-rakshaks are motivated not so much by their compassion for the cows as thier hatred of the bee-featers, real or imaginary. (If they had really cared for the cows, we wouldn’t see so many of them feeding on street garbage.) To put it bluntly, they are largely targeting a particular community, that is, the Muslims and their compassion for the cow is only a fig-leaf to cover their minderous designs. They killed Akhlaq for supposedly keeping beef in the fridge. Then Pehlu Khan, who bought a cow at the Jaipur fair, to maintain his family and had the necessary documents to prove that. But the cow vigilantes hounded him and killed him brutally and even made a video of this gruesome act betraying utter contempt for law and the law-enforcing agencies. And then a teenager called Junaid who was returning home in a local train with goodies bought from the Jama Masjid market to celebrate Id with his family. The death of this teenager on the eve of the Id festival shocked the entire village and caused deep outrage in general compelling even a high profile Central Minister to describe the whole incident as “barbaric”. For once a Minister seemed to voice the feelings of the people. Only one would like to ask the honourable Minister, “Well, what are you going to do about it? And isn’t your party in someway responsible for it?”

For the Gau-rakshaks are product of a socio-cultural climate created by the RSS and its affiliates. There is a basic affinity between what the chief ideologue of the RSS, Shri M.S. Golwalkar wrote about the Muslims and what the Gau-Rakshaks put into practice. Let me quote from Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts, “But the question before us now is, what is the attitude of those people who have been converted to Islam or Christianity? They are born in this land, no doubt. But are they true to its salt? Are they grateful towards this land which has brought them up? Do they feel that they are children of this land and its tradition and that to serve it is their great good fortune? Do they feel it is a duty to serve her? No, together with the change in their faith, gone are the spirit of love and devotion for the nation...

“Nor does it end there. They have also developed a feeling of identification with the enemies of this land.” (cited from R.C. Guha’s Makers of Modern India, p. 374) Again, the impunity with which the Gau-Rakshaks have gone about their business lends credence to the view that they enjoy covert support of the authorities. “The data journalism website India spend has reported that 97# of lynching murders by gau-rakshaks have come after 2014.” (Cited from Aakar Patel’s article in The Times of India, dated 2.8.2017)

If the cow vigilantes persist in their senseless, ‘barbaric’ acts and the government does nothing to prevent them, home-spun Muslim terrorism will become a strong possibility and/or the communal divide will assume dangerous proportions endangering the peace and unity of the country.

Finally, Gau-rakshaks, anti-Romeo squads and the crusade for ghar-wapasi are all of a piece. They are all meant to marginalise the Muslims and destroy our composite culture. What is even more frightening, they are attempts to talbanise Hindu culture, to bring in a highly puritanic, repressive colourless, one-dimensional version in place of a rich pluralistic, holistic culture—a culture that envisages a full life wherein dharma,artha and moksha kama would be pursued with equal vigour and intensity.

The author, who retired as a Reader in English from Rajdhani Collage, University of Delhi, is now a freelancer.

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