In India, a dead cow is more precious than the life of a Dalit or Muslim
An image can be a commentary on the state of affairs. The image of the four Dalit men stripped down and beaten with sticks for trying to skin a dead cow, by the alleged Hindu fanatic group in Una – a town in the western Indian state of Gujarat – narrates a very sorry state of affairs for India today.
Members of Gau Rakshak Sena (Cow Protection Army) not only humiliated the members of the socially marginalised Dalit community, but, in a brazen manner, they made a video of the whole episode to show off their temerity to act without fear. They know that the government cannot arrest them because the party holds power in the state and New Delhi supports such vigilante groups.
Also, a recent incident where a Muslim woman was thrashed by Hindu right wing radicals for allegedly possessing beef in Madhya Pradesh reveals a very disturbing story of India, a country which aspires to be a leading nation in the global arena.
These kinds of incidents were unheard of in India before May 2014. People were not killed or beaten for eating beef or trading in cattle skin. But today in India, under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, a dead cow is more precious than the life of a Dalit or a Muslim. Ever since the Hindu right wing party has come to power, under the leadership of Narendra Modi two and half years ago, social and religious tensions have increased in the country.
The cow vigilante group has not only killed and beaten Muslim men merely based on suspicions of carrying cows or eating cow meat, but they have also pushed the Dalits to a corner, and many of them make a living from selling cow skin. Hindu sensitivity towards cows is not new; there have always been debates on the issue, but they have never led to a bitter and a deadly schism between communities.
However, times have changed.
It is a clear sign of creeping majoritarianism in the country. The incident that took place in Una last week is an unequivocal signal to the world that majoritarianism is the guiding principle of the Modi regime, and secularism does not mean anything for the present dispensation.
The signal was quite clear in the early days of the Modi regime when the Hindu radicals launched ‘Love Jihad’—a boorish attempt to stop the interactions between the Hindu and Muslim boys and girls. Then a program called ‘Ghar Wapsi’ was initiated which was meant to forcefully reconvert the Muslims who left the Hindu faith generations ago.
The ban on eating beef and meat in Mumbai was meant to convert secular India into a Hindu state. These are obvious attempts at making India a Hindu majoritarian state.
The attempt to tamper with history points towards a similar intent.
History textbooks clearly state that during ancient times, Indians used to serve cattle meat to guests and it was an important delicacy during the Vedic period (c 1500 – c 500 BCE). This information comes from one of the sacred ancient scriptures. But the Hindu regime wants to sanitise history and teach young minds only the parts that glorify Hindus and side-line the Islamic contributions to the Indian way of life. We all know the consequences of teaching such sanitised history—it leads to a stinted mind-set and the radicalisation of society.
This majoritarian project runs counter to the oft repeated mantra of development by the Indian prime minister. Modi talks big, he wants to make India one of the most successful and prosperous countries in the world. But his words sound vacuous when India is confronted by cases of lynching of a Muslim for alleged possession of beef and beating of Dalits for skinning a dead cow.
It’s interesting that Modi never reacts to incidents that shame Indian society. No doubt that there is a clear pattern here — Modi, for public consumption, assumes the mask of a man on a mission, but never tries to stop his party men or his followers from indulging in anti-Muslim, anti-minority, or anti Dalit acts. This duplicity clearly demonstrates that the BJP government in Delhi is working on a very clear agenda of turning the nation into a Hindu state officially.
This agenda will not make India a progressive nation, but a reactionary state. This is worrying. Already, Hindu radicals have occupied public discourse and have won favours from some of the media houses. There are some TV broadcast stations and newspapers, which are blatantly rightist and blindly support the government’s divisive agenda. This is not a good sign. It is leading to the radicalisation and polarisation of the society and the entrenchment of existing fault lines.
Today, India’s diversity is under siege by its own ruler. A reign of terror has been let loose on those who don’t agree with the Hindu right wing narrative. The ring master, Modi, who otherwise tweets on many unimportant issues, assumes a deadly silence at a time when his voice should reach out to the victims and act as a stern warning for the perpetrators of the crime.
The tragedy is that a section of the vocal media is privy to this devious project.
History tells us that when majoritarianism becomes the guiding political philosophy of any nation, it loses its soul. At a time when the world needs to adopt and promote diversity to ward off the evil of sectarianism and terrorism, India is shying away from its civilisational assets, that is—unity in diversity.
It is gradually becoming a breeding ground for Hindu terrorism. Many won’t like to use this term but the fact remains that the militant Hindu right wing group has been given a new lease of life under the Modi dispensation in Delhi. India has never been under siege before as it is now.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.