By Athul Iyju Jacob (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Athul Iyju Jacob (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Vigilantes kill to protect cows in India

Hindu nationalists are accused of vigilantism to forcefully promote their distorted Hindu vision of India. The cow, which is a common sight on India's roads are now becoming the center of rising violent social upheaval. A number of vigilante mobs, on the pretext of defending so-called Hindu values, have been lynching and even killing people who they suspect of trading cows or eating those mammals. The Hindutva (“Hindu-first”) government has done almost nothing to stop them.

Certain portions of Hindu philosophy consider cows a sacred animal. Academics, however, say nothing in the Hindu scriptures say that the cow is a holy animal. Attacks on religious minorities have risen all over India from the time Narendra Modi took over as the elected Prime Minister. He is from the Bharatiya Janata Party or as it is popularly known, the BJP. The party is an openly Hindu nationalist one. Although the Prime Minister has assured the Indian electorate that minorities will be protected, this is clearly not happening. The Muslim population of India is at its uneasiest right now.

Hindus make up about 80 percent of the population in India. Muslims comprise 14 percent of the population. The list of other minority religions includes Jainism, Christianity, Buddhism and Sikhism. The electoral triumph of Yogi Adityanath to become chief minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has given a strong fillip to Hindu nationalists. Adityanath is an ultra-conservative Hindu priest who openly says that those Indians opposed to the Hindu way of life should drown in the sea.

Adityanath has started a number of pro-cow programs including a cow exclusive ambulance service. This service is named “Gauvansh Chikitsa Mobile Vans,” ambulance vans that would take injured or ill cows to the “gau shalas” or for treatment to a veterinary doctor. A toll-free number for saving cows was also released so that common people can help stray cows. During the initial phase the services will only be available in a few select cities like Allahabad, Lucknow, Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Mathura. Cow ambulance services will be administered in collaboration with MNREGA Mazdoor Kalyan Sanghathan. The latter claims to work for those employed in informal sectors and for the laborers.

Adityanath's cow fixation is not new. He founded Hindu Yuva Vahini, translated as Hindu Youth Brigade, an organization created to enforce a Hindu version of life. These people frequently disrupt gatherings of other religions and make baseless accusations like Hindus being forcefully converted into other religions.

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