Cow Vigilantes Enjoy Impunity under the BJP Govt: HRW

The Indian government should prosecute mob violence by so-called “cow protection groups” that have targeted Muslims, Dalits and other minorities in the five years since the Hindu supremacist BJP came to power in 2014. It is the complicity by local officials and police inertia which has meant dozens of vigilante murders of religious minorities in India have gone unprosecuted and unpunished over the last four years, according to a report by Human Rights Watch released recently.

Cow Vigilantes

The report quoted studies showing that between May 2015 and December2018 at least 44 people, including 36 Muslims, were killed in attacks over beef consumption and the cattle tradeCows are honoured by Hindus as selfless nourishers, and the embodiment of the Hindu principle of non-violence. But the zeal to “save” cows is a modern phenomenon. As has been well documented, many Hindus in Kerala and Tamil Nadu eat beef; so do members of less-powerful castes in need of a cheap source of protein. Dalits, India’s most maligned caste, are tasked with disposing of dead cows.Dalits all over the country, even in Gujarat consume beef.

 “According to a survey by New Delhi Television, there was a nearly 500% increase in the use of communally divisive language in speeches by elected leaders – 90% of them from the BJP – between 2014 and 2018, as compared to the five years before the BJP came to power,” the report, released on February 19, said.

About 90% of these attacks were reported after the BJP came to power in May 2014, and 66% occurred in BJP-run states, the report stated.“Calls for cow protection may have started out as a way to attract Hindu votes, but it has transformed into a free pass for mobs to violently attack and kill minority group members,” said MeenakshiGanguly, south Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The report looks in detail at 11 vigilante attacks and reveals why the perpetrators have not been punished. In one case, the statement in which the accused men confessed to the killings was not recorded by the police.In several others, the mobs enjoy local political patronage, which can intimidate the police into inaction.

In one case of outright complicity, the murder of a Muslim man by a mob in June 2018 was described by in police records as a “motorbike accident”.

“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,” the report said.

Human Rights Watch said state governments must send the message that lynchings will be firmly punished. To prevent further mob violence they must also ensure prompt police action against any perpetrators, safeguard victims and witnesses, and, if possible, try the cases in fast-track courts.

“Thus far, several states have designated officers and issued circulars to police officials on addressing mob violence. However, most of the court’s other directives have yet to be complied with,” the report said.



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