Hindutva cultural nationalism is at its peak today. So the day is not far when India becomes a country like Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. We have all witnessed how the cow-vigilantes are promoted by the VHP, RSS and its political outfit, the BJP. People from oppressed communities across the country are being butchered, lynched, tortured and harassed, apparently for consuming or selling beef. A few months ago, four Dalits were beaten up by cow-vigilantes in Una town of Gujarat. Out of political compulsion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shed crocodile tears, saying things like “Shoot me but don’t target Dalits” and “Cow-vigilantes are doing business in the name of cow protection”. Later, he was criticized for these statements by people like Pravin Togadia. Togadia claimed that cow-vigilantes sacrificed their life for cow protection while Modi never cared about it. After this, Modi did not give out a single statement regarding the Una issue. Of course, by their very nature, Indian society and culture have been suppressive and have oppressed certain communities for centuries, but in today’s so-called independent and democratic India, they operate in very sophisticated ways.
Cow-vigilantes are working very strategically in Muslim and Dalit localities. For instance, in Delhi, some institutions associated with Sangh Parivar can be found near the Qutb Minar, and the walls are replete with slogans like, “Gaay Hamari Mata Hai, Isko Rashtriya Pashu Banana Hai”. Near Jama Mosque, a BMS (Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh) office can be seen, surrounded by many temples. In this way, some or the other kind of surveillance by the Sangh Parivar can be found in almost all Muslim and Dalit localities. Sanghis are playing multiple roles; working everywhere as militia and as agents of the intelligentsia in different forms against the oppressed of the country.
With conscious analysis, we find two authorities functioning together in the so-called democratic India; one being the Manusmriti and the other being the Indian Constitution. Manusmriti has not become obsolete; rather it is continuing to function, even more vigorously than the Indian constitution in practice. There are many examples of various judgments issued by the Indian judiciary, that were given by quoting from the Manusmriti. It is no wonder then that a statue of Manu has been erected in the centre of the Rajasthan High Court garden.
In academic institutions, these intelligentsia and militias are very much active in the form of student wings like ABVP and others. Students in the campuses who think, write or talk against the communal and casteist Indian society, against Brahmanical culture and the fascist government, have been facing a lot of harassment from the administration, with the support of ABVP. Recently in the Central University of Haryana, a teacher from the department of English was tortured by the administration and local people with the help of ABVP, because he directed a play in which a military person was shown raping women. There is no need to discuss the 9th February incident in JNU because everyone knows what it was, but the extent of fascist attack in the campus became evident when students were faced with a proctorial enquiry for writing ‘Jai Bhim’ on the walls of the Administration Block.
A few months ago, some Dalit students in ABVP, harassed and discriminated by the upper-caste lobby, decided to leave the organization. After this, Pradip Narval and some other ex-members of ABVP burnt the Manusmriti publicly. For having done this, they are still being harassed by the administration. In JNU, burning the effigies of cow-vigilantes or the Modi Government have now become ‘anti-national’. Manikanta Bahujan from BAPSA, Abdul Matin from YFDA and T. Pravin from BAPSA are facing administrative enquiry for the ‘crime’ of burning effigies of cow-vigilantes and the Modi government. In this democratic state, people do not even have the right to criticise the government or the thuggish cow-vigilantes.
Coming to the main argument of my write up; how can a natural death of a cow-vigilante be treated with the same honour as an Indian soldier, with the Tricolour? Is the Tricolour meant for cow-vigilantes? Is it not disrespectful to the National Flag? Why was his (Ravin Sisodia’s) family given a huge amount of money by different sources and the government? Is it not encouraging and promoting cow-vigilantism, Brahmanism and fascism? What is it? Nationalist or anti-national? If disrespecting the National Flag is a punishable offence, then Mahesh Sharma, Sangit Som and other leaders involved in the incident, are culprits.
Ravin Sisodia was one of the 18 accused who lynched Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri last year, for allegedly consuming beef. The entire country witnessed a huge movement demanding justice for Akhlaq. Akhlaq’s son, who works in the Indian Air Force, did not get provoked on communal lines even though his father was killed by a particular religious community. Instead of worrying about his father’s death, he was worrying about the country. He gave many interviews to media channels regarding his father’s murder by cow-vigilantes, and did not utter a single word of hatred during any of them. He appealed for peace and harmony in the country. The irony is that the system is still victimizing Akhlaq’s entire family, while the murderers are still searching for what was actually in the freezer in Akhlaq’s home – was it Beef or Mutton?
The family of Akhlaq is facing daily torture from religious communities for being Muslim, and by the government for keeping beef. Instead of giving justice to Akhlaq, the culprits have been rewarded. According to NP Singh, the District Magistrate of Gautam Budh Nagar, Sisodia’s family will be given a compensation of Rs. 25 Lakh. The state government will give Rs.10 lakh. Another 10 lakh rupees will be given by social institutions, while MP Mahesh Sharma and MLA Sangeet Som will be giving Rs. 5 lakh each. The state government had agreed to recommend a CBI inquiry into the case as soon as a written request was received from the family. (Indian Express, 8 Oct. 2016). Yet, the communal and casteist forces are not satisfied. They are continuously victimising Akhlaq’s brother, Jaan Mohammed. A 11-member committee has now been constituted by the local MLA to monitor the police enquiry. In this way, the cow-vigilantes are getting every kind of support from all quarters.
Is one sufficiently patriotic only if one is a Hindu cow-vigilante? Is a Muslim person’s service to the country in a soldier’s uniform not enough to prove his patriotism? The happenings of Bisara village prove that the cow is being portrayed as the nation and Ravin Sisodia as a soldier who died fighting against cow slaughterers. In every way, the kind of nationalism being portrayed here is even more dangerous than the one of Hitler’s Germany. Hitler and his fascist state killed millions of people for preserving the purity of the Aryan race. Sanghis are killing people for cows. The nation they are trying to build is only for cows and cow-vigilantes (Sangh Parivar and caste Hindus) and the non-Hindus, particularly the minority Muslims and Dalits, are seen as a threat.
The idea of Hindu Rashtra is based on Brahmanical cultural hegemony. The Cow is being used as a weapon against the marginal communities that uphold different religious and cultural values. The oppressed of the country genuinely carry the values of democracy, equality, liberty and fraternity. They want a country guided by the modern Constitution and not the Manusmriti. There is an urgent need for all the oppressed communities to get united in order to fight against the majoritarian and fascist idea of Hindu Rashtra, and lead the country toward building a nation with real democratic values. In such a nation, people would be called nationalists because of their love for fellow humans, rather than for animals like the cow. People would get rewarded because of their humanitarian acts and not for being saviours of oppressive Brahmanical cultures, a casteist society and cow-vigilantism.
Vinod Kumar is a PhD candidate in Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.