Cow Vigilantism

Cow Vigilantism

A family of nomadic herders was attacked by a gang of cow vigilantes in Reasi.  Besides the trauma and injuries caused to the victims by the grievous attack, which in itself is terrible, there is significance to these attacks. The import of these attacks, which follow a certain pattern, are in the nature of political trends that are gaining momentum in India.  These pertain to the gaining traction and momentum of far right forces. These forces have been ascendant in India since a while but assumed the highest seats of power after the watershed elections of 2014. The incarnation of these political forces is in the form of the Sangh Parivar, of which the BJP is a component or constituent. The Sangh Parivar’s Idea of India corresponds to the ideology of Hindutva which seeks to morph India into a Hindu nation. In this schema, minorities- especially Muslims- their nature, role, intention(s) and status in India is increasingly called into question. Delineation of this context is very relevant to the cow vigilantism that is increasingly becoming visible in India. The dictionary defines vigilantes as “members of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate”. If this textbook definition of vigilantes and vigilantism is employed then the obvious conclusions to draw are that the growing intensity of Hindutva forces is emboldening some people to a. It may also be added here that, at times, vigilantes, do not act in isolation; they are patronized by powerful groups or interests in the service of larger political ends or goals. The larger point here is that the aim of these vigilante groups- with or without patronage- is to induce fear amongst minorities and show them their place, so to speak. The travesty is that, powers that be in India, have neither condemned these growing incidents of vigilantism nor have stringent and vigorous actions been taken against them by the legal and policing apparatuses of the state. The case of Mohammad Ikhlaq- a Muslim man lynched by an enraged mob for consuming beef- is a case in point here. All in all given the political trends and developments look ominous. In the ultimate analysis, it can be said that South Asia is in the throes of flux and. What form and shape, it will ultimately take, is historically contingent. At the moment, however, what is real is fear and dominance.

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