Gau Rakshaks — Protectors or Extortionists?

A Note

NDTV released a video on 30 July 2016 which posed this question. The video shows how "gau rakshaks", always associated with one or other Hindutva outfit, forcibly stop those who are transporting cattle and snatch away the cattle. The animals are taken to one or other cow shelters owned by the same cabal and are released only when substantial sums of money are paid.

This money is for “maintenance” and cannot be called fines as no illegal activity is involved. What comes through is that the shelters may also sell the seized cattle, which never were their property, in the first place.

 While the NDTV video focuses on the money making activities of the gau rakshak phenomenon, there are other things that we must consider. All the victims of the gau rakshaks are Muslims or Dalits, and always there is physical violence against them in addition to the robbing of their cattle. This must be seen as a strategy to instill fear in the minds of Muslims and Dalits who are of course going about their lawful business. Right and wrong are thus defined not by the laws of the land but by the gau rakshaks, whose actions are not whimsical but a calculated strategy to tell Muslims and Dalits that they are not equal citizens but subordinate species.

In the name of cow protection Muslims and Dalits are attacked. Neither a Muslim not a Dalit is prevented by religion from cutting up and eating "cow and its progeny". The gau rakshaks, who represent a particularly virulent strain of Hindutva, seem to work on the warped reasoning that those who are free to handle cow's flesh must do that and nothing else.

It is forgotten that Muslims and Dalits in many parts of the country are 1 aware of the civil laws against cow slaughter and have every reason to abide by these laws. The Hindutva fanatics, however, go by their life-long identification of Muslims and Dalits as cow eaters. By assuming always that Muslims and Dalits break the laws of the land, they manufacture the justification for taking the law in their own hands.

(This piece was originally published in Mainstream weekly and is being re-published on permission by the author)



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