Is it too little too late or mere lip service by a man who has been largely silent even as people have been lynched and killed over the question of beef and cow worship? A day after protests in many cities across the nation raised its collective voice against the killings in cow’s name and targeting a certain community, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally found it fit to finally say a few words ironically at Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram. Even as he spoke, a man was brutally killed and his van set on fire in cow’s name in the eastern state of Jharkhand.
Breaking his silence on cow vigilantes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday made it clear that killing people in the name of “gau bhakti” was unacceptable.
Addressing a gathering at the Sabarmati Ashram set up by Mahatma Gandhi here, Modi said: “As a society, there is no place for violence.
“Killing people in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ (cow worship) is not acceptable. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve.”
Modi underlined that no one spoke about protecting cows more than Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave.
“Yes, it should be done,” he said. But “we are a land of non-violence. We are a land of Mahatma Gandhi. Why do we forget that?
“Today I want to say a few words and express sadness on some of the things going on,” Modi added, in clear reference to the increasing cases of murderous attacks on people in the name of cow protection.
“Violence never has and never will solve any problem. No person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands.
“Let’s us all work together. Let’s create the India of Mahatma Gandhi’s dremas. Let’s create an India our freedom fighters will be proud of,” Modi said.
The remarks by Modi, who arrived in Gujarat on Thursday on a two-day visit, assume significance in the wake of criticism that he and his government have maintained silence about the violence by cow vigilantes who have lynched people in various places.
The cow vigilantes claim to be acting to defend an animal which Hindus consider sacred.
Opposition leaders questioned the sincerity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks against cow vigilantism, saying little has changed despite his earlier warnings.
“The Prime Minister should ask himself as to who has created this atmosphere of lawlessness in the country. Pro forma condemnations are not enough. The Prime Minister must reaffirm that he believes in the founding values of the Indian state,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in a sarcasm-laced remark, said the “presence of Gandhiji’s living spirit in Sabarmati Ashram” must have affected Modi.
“What he has said is absolutely right but it should be followed by very strong action on the ground. All the perpetrators (of hate crimes) have to be caught and prosecuted and the public’s confidence in (law and order) has to be revived,” Gandhi said.
Ruing that the “state has been complicit in murders in cow’s name” Gandhi hoped that Modi’s statement would herald the beginning of a change.
Janata Dal United (JD-U) spokesman K.C. Tyagi said he does not see any substance in Modi’s remarks.
“The Prime Minister has spoken on cow vigilantism earlier too but it has had little impact on the ground. In fact, every time he issues such advisory to gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes), the incidents of violence in the name of cow go up,” Tyagi said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the flurry of attacks on people accused of eating beef or slaughtering cows has to stop and “just words will not do”.
“We condemn killings taking place in the name of ‘gau raksha’ (cow protection). This must stop now. Just words not enough,” Banerjee tweeted.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi termed Modi’s comments as “lip service” and said “gau rakshaks” get direct and indirect support of the BJP and Sangh Parivar.
“The Prime Minister says killings unacceptable but three alleged killers of Pehlu khan yet to be arrested and BJP is in power in Rajasthan. Walk the talk Mr. PM,” Owaisi tweeted.
Modi’s statement “is mere lip service… So long an animal has a higher premium, killings of human beings will continue”, Owaisi added.
Communist Party of India leader D. Raja demanded concrete action against the people involved in violence against minorities on one pretext or the other.
“He (Modi) is speaking alright but what is the action that he is suggesting? All the incidents of lynching in the name of cow are happening in BJP-ruled states. So who is patronising the cow vigilantes?” Raja asked.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) spokesperson Manoj Jha said Modi’s words sounded hollow.
“He had made such delayed statements about the Rohith Vemula suicide and the Una incident (thrashing of Dalits) too. Did it stop? What this nation urgently requires is a robust legislation against mob lynchings,” Jha said.
On Wednesday, protests were held in several cities across India under the banner of “#NotInMyName” to denounce lynching of innocent people in the name of religion and protection of cows.
Meanwhile, a man accused of carrying beef was beaten to death on Thursday in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district.
Police sources said Alimuddin alias Asgar Ansari was carrying the “banned meat” in a Maruti van.
A group of people stopped him near Bajartand village and brutally attacked him, the sources said. His van was set on fire too.
Police personnel rescued him and took him to a hospital where he died during the course of treatment.
“It’s premeditated murder,” Additional Director General of Police R.K. Mallik said.
“Asgar was chargesheeted for child abduction and murder,” the officer said, adding that some people involved in beef trade hatched a conspiracy to kill him. “The killers have been identified.”
This is second such case in Jharkhand in the last three days.
In Giridih district, a mob thrashed a person and set on fire his house after a cow head was found. (IANS)