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The introduction of Prohibition in India in 2016 was ridiculous, but the arrival of the cow vigilante two years earlier is downright dangerous.

The Diplomat, an online international public affairs magazine reported that, according to an analysis by IndiaSpend, a public interest journalism website, “63 incidents of [violence centered on bovine issues] were reported between 2010 and 2017. Ninety-seven percent of these occurred after the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in May 2014. Twenty-five of these incidents were reported in 2016 alone.

At the time of writing, 2017 was shaping up to be a record-breaking year with 20 cow vigilante attacks reported in the first six months.

As of September 1, 2017, thugs had killed 28 people, including a 12-year-old boy, in the name of “cow protectionism.” Most were either hanged or beaten to death. Eighty-six percent were Muslim. (India has a population of 1.3 billion of which around 14 percent is Muslim.) The remaining 14 percent comprised mainly Dalits (also called Untouchables) who are at the bottom of the Hindu caste system.

Muslims dominate the beef industry, but the Dalits do the dirty work. They’re the ones that skin the cows and tan the leather. Both Muslims and some Dalits are meat eaters, which is another beef related activity anathema to the cow protectionists. The latter of the two, I suspect, eat meat out of necessity.

The vigilante group that I call Cow’s Cowards is just one of numerous Hindu extremist groups that have sprung up across India since 2014 to enforce the BJP party’s right wing and anti-Muslim views.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, publically condemns the attacks on anyone who works with beef or eats it. But, empirical evidence exists that there is a link between his ruling party’s membership and the umbrella groups under which these cow vigilantes operate. It’s widely known, for example, that action against such violence is rarely taken, particularly in the BJP-held States and that more often than not, the victims, not the vigilantes, are punished.

Over the years the cow has become a potent symbol of the Hindu supremacist ideology called Hindutva, which defines India as a Hindu nation driven solely by Hindu values. Advocates of this ideology want a nation-wide ban on meat to foist Hindu food onto those who don’t subscribe to their religious doctrine, especially the Muslims who they despise, and it’s not far off. Slaughtering cows and eating beef is already illegal or restricted in many states throughout India.

Having the BJP in power has made it easier for groups that support Hindutva, such as the influential Bhartiya Gau Raksha Dal (BGRD), to put “cow protection’” near the top of the political agenda.

According to their website, the BGRD’s sole objective is “to care for stray, abandoned cows, bulls, retired oxen and orphaned calves.” But the results of my research illustrate that an equivalent of the RSPCA, the BGRD is not. One can easily find videos on the Internet showcasing the vicious tactics used by BGRD fanatics against Muslims and Dalits in the name of animal welfare. The scenes are brutal.

The rise of popularism combined with the emergence of extremist, right-wing factions are a reason for concern in India. A friend told me recently that, in her opinion, Modi and his ruling the BJP Party were taking India back to the dark ages and she feared for the future of her children. Based on the images I have seen and the incident reports I have read in the newspapers about the activities of the so-called cow vigilantes alone, educated people in India, like my friend, have every right to worry.

The rise of widespread violence primarily against Muslims in the name of Hinduism that’s currently spreading across India would make the country’s best-known pacifist, Mahatma Gandhi, turn in his grave.

I get it that millions of Hindus worship cows because of their motherhood status. It’s unfortunate, however, that some of them don’t equally cherish human life itself.



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