The unambiguous condemnation by Arun Jaitley of the killings in the name of cow protection, on Thursday, and a few days earlier by Narendra Modi, ought to send out a stern message to the assorted loonies who have undertaken to kill and maim in the name of gau raksha. This is just not acceptable. No civilised society can, and will, condone such barbaric conduct. The entire force of law must be brought to visit upon these goons who take shelter behind gau mata to advance private criminal and other agendas. True gau bhakts do not kill in the name of cow, which is universally supposed to be one of the more gentle of domestic animals around. Having said that visceral critics of the government, and other vested interests aligned with them ought to appreciate the importance of cow in our religio-cultural ethos. Acknowledging this, the founding fathers unanimously enjoined upon successive generations to preserve and protect cows and, specifically, prohibited slaughter of milch cows and calves. Gau raksha has always been a priority with Hindus for historic reasons. One may reject some of those reasons in the modern context—just as one might in the present times reject the rationale behind prohibition against the consumption of pig meats—but nonetheless there can be no questioning their civilisational validity. Gau mata has been dear to Hindus, nay, Indians for centuries.

It would help to recall that the first time the then well-entrenched Congress Party suffered a major jolt was in the 1967 Lok Sabha election. The sole reason was the police firing a few months earlier on the tens of thousands of sadhus and sants who had laid siege to Parliament House, seeking a total ban on cow slaughter. Scores of people died in the firing, though the official figure was lower.

The point is that even the most modern-mined Congress leader would not publicly defend cow slaughter, though he may consume beef at home and/or abroad. Simply put, one does not quarrel with one’s shared heritage. Nor can one try and change it. One may eat beef, but it will be foolhardy to seek its public availability and consumption. In small geographies within the country where it is consumed openly, it is again due to the cultural and religious particularities of the local population.

As a young child one had seen a cow or two always tied in the half-a-football-ground-sized compound of the family haveli back in a small town in Punjab. At the end of its fecund period, the old cow would be dutifully transferred to the gaushala nearby, with a small donation for its upkeep, even as a much younger milch cow immediately replaced it in the compound. Indeed, some years ago, visiting the long-abandoned hometown after a couple of decades upon the death of an uncle—who, for long, headed the local RSS-Jana Sangh units—it was disappointing to know that the gaushala lay shut, while its managers fought bitterly over land, which had gained much value in the intervening period. Small wonder then the old and abandoned cows now roamed the streets, foraging for food in various garbage dumps. 

The point is that those who kill and those who talk of cow protection, should, instead, think of re-energising the network of charitable gaushalas, which was strong and widespread in the erstwhile united Punjab and much of western UP. In fact, one recalls as a child the commission agent (aadhtiya) earmarking more or less mandatorily one paise out of every rupee of aadhat for dharamarth (charity) which helped sustain such gaushalas. That spirit of charity is missing from society now. Also, since the FCI spread its corrupt network, aadhtiyas have virtually vanished from Punjab. 

Meanwhile, the debate in the Rajya Sabha on cow vigilantism exposed once again the hypocrisy of critics. Kapil Sibal was all fire and brimstone, accusing the Prime Minister of double- and triple-speak, but having said his piece he seemed to be in a hurry to rush back to the courts to print money. Indeed, in spite of the frenzy being kicked up by the anti-Modi brigade over cow vigilantism, both the attendance and the level of debate left much to be desired. 

If truth be told, the Congress Party cannot seem to decide whether to go the whole hog in taking on the government over the question of cow vigilantism. Aware that the ordinary voter in much of the country holds cow sacred in his heart, if not in his mind, the party is afraid to identify itself fully with the Communists, whose limited influence in Kerala and a few other small pockets allows them to celebrate cow-killing and beef-eating. Congress still dreams of regaining relevance in what is derisively called the cow-belt and would, therefore, always hedge its words on cow vigilantism. Besides, the Congress would be conscious not to self-attest further the charge of minority protection and appeasement by aggressively shouting about the lynchings, real or highly exaggerated, in the name of gau mata. 

But notwithstanding what its critics say, the reason why the government must come down with a tonne of bricks on all those engaged in this idiocy over gau raksha is that it detracts from all the good work it is doing in fixing the broken plumbing of the system. The noise over cow vigilantism smothers any discussion over various programmes and schemes undertaken to deliver good governance to the poor and the underprivileged. The fact that the Modi government has consciously undertaken to provide succour to those who have missed the fruits of development so far in the last 70 years is relegated to the margins, while scary reports about cow vigilantism occupy centre stage. Western media, unable to grasp the reality of India outside the confines of Lutyens’ Delhi, further amplifies the negative image in world capitals, relying on its incestuous circle of a few English-speaking media types and politicians who themselves are alienated from the reality of India, that is, Bharat. 

A VIP crook

It pays to have connections in high places. A notorious Delhi-based fixer, whose name figured in the alleged laundering of money for Lalu Yadav’s daughter Misa Bharti’s purchase of a property in Sainik Farms in South Delhi, seems to have got away. On the other hand, the chartered accountants who helped Lalu and his family to float different companies, have had to bear the brunt of the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department. The fixer with connections had got so emboldened that he even managed to become a member of some of the more exclusive watering holes in the capital.

Disturbing his sleep

Samajwadi leader Mulayam Singh Yadav wants to urgently move out of his present official accommodation. The reason: he finds it hard to have his post-lunch siestas with all these small groups of protesters shouting slogans in support of this or that demand. The problem is that Yadav, as a former Cabinet minister, has been allotted a spacious bungalow on the edge of Jantar Mantar Road. Which means he has to often negotiate road blocks and slogan-shouting groups converging nearby, especially during the time when Parliament is in session. Paradoxically, Yadav feels the need to be in Delhi just when the procession of protesters gathers momentum, that is when Parliament is on.

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