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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 32 New Delhi July 27, 2019

A Report on Cow Protection Violence in India

Saturday 27 July 2019, by Arup Kumar Sen


Writing on the social dynamics of communal violence in India, social anthropologist, Julia Eckert, observed: “The success of Hindu nationalist organisations...lies not simply in their nationalist credo but in the specific opportunities of action and participation that are inherent in their mode of operation and form of organization. They reset the terms of inclusion and exclusion not solely ideologically but also in a practical manner offering local possibilities of action.”1

A recent report (2019), Violent Cow Protection in India: Vigilante Groups Attack Minorities, published by Human Rights Watch, has explored the mode of violent operations of “Hindu nationalist organisations” in India. To put it in the words of the report:

“Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), since coming to power at the national level in May 2014, have increasingly used communal rhetoric that has spurred a violent vigilante campaign against beef consumption and those deemed linked to it. Between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 people- 36 of them Muslims- were killed across 12 Indian states. Over that same period, around 280 people were injured in over 100 different incidents across 20 states.

“The attacks have been led by so-called cow protection groups, many claiming to be affiliated to militant Hindu groups that often have with ties to the BJP. Many Hindus consider cows to be sacred and these groups have mushroomed all over the country. Their victims are largely Muslim or from Dalit and Adivasi communities.

“...In addition to beating up cattle traders and transporters that have caused serious injuries, even fatalities, cow protectors have reportedly assaulted Muslim men and women in trains and railway stations in Madhya Pradesh state, stripped and beat Dalit men in Gujarat, force-fed cow dung and urine to two men in Haryana, raided a Muslim hotel in Jaipur, and raped two women and killed two men in Haryana for allegedly eating beef at home.”

The role of the police and the BJP politicians in the wake of the violent attacks by cow protection groups have been questioned in the report: “In almost all of the cases, the police initially stalled investigations, ignored procedures, or even played a complicit role in the killings and cover-up of crimes. Instead of promptly investigating and arresting suspects, the police filed complaints against victims, their families, and witnesses under laws that ban cow slaughter. In several cases, political leaders of Hindu nationalist groups, including elected BJP officials, defended the assaults.”

The incidents of cow-protection-violence documented in the Report bear testimony to the subversion of our “constitutional democracy” by the “Hindu nationalist organisations”.


1. Julia Eckert, ‘The Social Dynamics of Communal Violence in India’, IJCV, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2009.

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