‘Cow protection mobs’ continue to remain absolutely confident of impunity thanks to patronage from the ruling regime in India, even after the Una uprising and the outrage over the Dadri lynching. The latest atrocities in the name of ‘protecting cows’ include the horrific murder and gangrape in Mewat and the brutal killing of Mohammed Ayyub in Ahmedabad.
Mewat is a region of Haryana where Muslims have a significant presence. In the run-up to Eid, the BJP Government of Haryana launched a series of ‘raids’ on eateries to check biryani for illegal use of beef. This move was a measure calculated to harass and intimidate the Muslim community on the occasion of their festival, and to create a climate of hatred and violence against Muslims. In the midst of this toxic climate, a gang forced its way into a farmhouse in Mewat and indulged in a brutal assault against a Muslim family. A couple was thrashed to death; another couple assaulted, and a 20-year-old woman and a 14-year old girl gangraped as a warning against ‘eating beef.’ The two gangrape survivors said that they were asked if they ate beef; and told that the rape was to make sure they stopped eating beef. The assailants were in no hurry; they indulged in prolonged violence, robbed the household and left.
The response of the Haryana Government has left no one in any doubt about why the ‘cow-protection’ mobs feel such a sense of impunity. The Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar has declared that the murder and gangrape, and the beef-testing raids in Mewat are “trivial issues” compared to the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the State! It was Khattar who, after the lynching of Akhlaque at Dadri, had said, “Muslims can continue to live in this country, but they will have to give up eating beef” because “the cow is an article of faith here.” The Haryana police initially did not even book the accused for murder, and have tried to deny any link of the attack to ‘cow protection’ mobs. We may recall how the Haryana Government tried to trivialize and deny the anti-Dalit atrocity in Faridabad where two Dalit children were burnt alive, and how Union Minister VK Singh compared the children to ‘dogs.’
It is apparent that the Haryana police has time to raid hotels, and test/taste biryani samples for ‘beef’, all to ‘protect cows’ – but protecting the rights of Muslim citizens and Muslim women from murder and rape is a ‘trivial issue.’
Meanwhile in Gujarat, a young man Mohammed Ayyub was beaten to death by a mob that accused him of ‘transporting calves’ in his car. His companion Sameer Sheikh survived the attack – but news reports suggest that the Gujarat police is denying Sheikh’s allegations of assault by a ‘cow protection’ mob, and is instead treating Sheikh as a suspect in a ‘cow smuggling’ case filed by those accused of killing Ayyub! Dalits and Muslims who came together to protest the killing – continuing the protests that followed the stripping and thrashing of Dalit youth at Una by a ‘cow-protection’ mob – are being detained by the police.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the assaults in Mewat and his own home ground of Ahmedabad is again, deafening. Modi had commented obliquely on Una, albeit belatedly, due to fear of alienating Dalit voters prior to UP polls. The distinction Modi then made between genuine and fake ‘cow protectors’ and his calls to State Governments to keep dossiers of cow-protection’ groups sound especially hollow in the face of the brazen daylight murder of Ayyub and the brutal murders and gangrapes in Mewat.
Modi’s birthday celebrations in Gujarat were marked by the arrest of activists. In Gujarat itself, leader of the Una Dalit uprising Jignesh Mevani was taken into preventive custody to keep Modi’s birthday ‘free of incident!’ And before that, well-known Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez was first prevented from flying to Geneva to attend the UN Human Rights Council, and then arrested and jails for ‘breach of peace.’ Bastar-based journalist Prabhat Singh known for exposing atrocities against adivasis by the notorious Bastar police and CRPF has gone into hiding, fearing abduction and even murder by the police and anti-Maoist vigilante outfits. He had been booked a few months ago in a criminal case on the pretext of a WhastApp message.
Arrests of activists and witch-hunt of journalists only underlines how fearful the Modi Government and State Governments in BJP-ruled Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and BJP-PDP ruled J&K are of the truth. By preventing a Kashmiri activist from approaching the UNHRC, the Indian Government has ironically proved to the international community that it has something to hide and is gagging activists. Bastar is being ‘cleansed’ of independent journalists and activists so that a ‘war without witnesses’ may be unleashed on the adivasis there. And the PM with the ’56-inch chest’ is so fearful that an activist may disrupt his birthday celebrations that he has the activist arrested!
The Modi Government that brands every dissenter as ‘anti-national’ and a ‘Pakistani agent’ has been left red-faced after a heinous terrorist attack on a military base in Uri killed 17 sleeping soldiers. Not only are the lives of Dalits, Muslims, Kashmiris cheap in Modi’s India, even the lives of soldiers whose heroism is invoked to justify every assault on democratic rights and dissent are treated as cheap by this Government. This Government must not be allowed to hide its all-round failures or justify the ongoing assaults on democracy under cover of war-mongering and hate-mongering in the wake of the Uri attack.