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Vigilantism

Opinion

January 5, 2019

India’s so-called ‘cow protection gangs’ display antithetical qualities to the ones they attribute to their sacred animal – they are unholy, ungentle, frenzied and violent.

According to data analytics site India Spend, 45 people were killed in 120 cases of cow-related violence reported across India between 2012 and 2018. The highest number of violent incidents were recorded in the state of Uttar Pradesh, with 19 verified incidents of cow-related violence resulting in 11 deaths.

On December 3, the killing of police officer Subodh Kumar Singh was added to this worrying statistic. Inspector Singh was killed alongside a 20-year-old man when a violent mob clashed with police in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district. The attackers, many of them members of far-right Hindu groups, were protesting the alleged inability of the police in the village of Chingrawathi to stop cow slaughtering, claiming that animal carcasses - including those of cows - were found in the area.

When rumours about the slaughter of the sacred symbol of Hindu nationalism arise, it appears, even an officer of the law is not safe.

Incidentally, Singh was part of the team that investigated the 2015 lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq, a 52-year-old resident of Bisara village, over allegations of cow slaughter and beef consumption in a district neighbouring Bulandshahr. Saroj Singh Chauhan, sister of the slain officer, believes her brother fell victim to “a conspiracy by the state police” because he “was investigating the Akhlaq case”. She questioned why her brother was left alone in his vehicle in the middle of a violent mob and said the police, who she accuses of collaborating with cow protection gangs, are complicit in the incident.

Her allegation daringly suggests that law enforcement in Uttar Pradesh is taking on a political role when it comes to cow protection and helping the expansion of majoritarian politics.

Abhishek Singh, the younger son of the deceased police officer, told reporters, “My father wanted me to be a good citizen who doesn’t incite violence in society in the name of religion”. The good citizen in India currently seems to be under severe stress, facing fatal consequences for obstructing the tide of right-wing vandalism.

A day after the incident in Bulandshahr, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath called a meeting in the state capital, Lucknow. An investigation into allegations of cow slaughter and “illegal slaughterhouses” was ordered by Adityanath, but local reports said he did not address Singh’s killing in the Lucknow meeting.

A day later, Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Om Prakash Singh described the Bulandshahr incident as “part of a larger conspiracy”. His concerns, just like the chief minister’s, centred solely around cow slaughter and he told reporters that the police would be conducting “a reverse investigation” - an investigation that would focus on how and why animal carcassesended up in the area rather than the two murders.

This reverse order of concern by the police and political leadership raised a legitimate fear that the so-called “reverse investigation” is going to lead to a reversal of justice.

Just days after the December 3 attack, four Muslim men were arrested in connection with the Bulandshahr case in villages dozens of kilometres away from the place where the animal carcasses were found. They were released after being found innocent. There is however, encouraging news. Bajrang Dal leader Yogesh Raj, who was the main accused in the mob violence and was absconding since, has been arrested on January 3. Raj has reportedly confessed to his role in the violence. It was based on Raj’s complaint that the police had earlier arrested the four Muslims. The question lingers, why is guilt attributed more readily to people of the minority community.

The fear that the murderers of officer Singh may never be brought to justice led 82 former bureaucrats, including a former national security adviser, to write a fiercely worded open letter demanding Adityanath’s resignation. The signatories call the Bulandshahr incident “a frightening indicator ofthe complete collapse of constitutional values”.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘How cow vigilantism is undermining the rule of law in India’.

Courtesy: Aljazeera.com