New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday used his first-ever townhall to deliver a lacerating statement on “Gau Rakshaks” or cow vigilantes blamed for outrageous incidents like the flogging of four Dalits in Gujarat last month. Most of these people are “anti-social elements hiding behind the mask of Gau Rakshaks”, he said.
“I get so angry at those who are into the Gau-Rakshak business. A Gau-Bhakt (cow devotee) is different, Gau Seva (cow protection) is different. I have seen that some people are into crimes all night and wear the garb of Gau Rakshaks in the day,” PM Modi said, answering a question at the interactive session to mark two years of his MyGov initiative.
PM Modi said he would urge states to prepare a dossier of so-called Gau Rakshaks. “70-80% will be those who indulge in anti-social activities and try to hide their sins by pretending to be Gau Rakshaks. If they are true protectors, they should realise that most cows die because of plastic, not slaughter. They should stop cows from eating plastic.”
The prime minister shared that while working at a health camp for cows, two buckets full of plastic were removed from one animal’s stomach.
This is the first time that PM Modi has spoken on incidents of cow vigilantism that have provoked opposition allegations that the ruling BJP is encouraging – or at the very least ignoring – the bullying of the most underprivileged people by self-appointed Gau Rakshaks.
On July 11, four Dalit men were stripped to the waist, flogged, tied to an SUV and paraded for skinning a dead cow in Una in Gujarat by a group who claimed to be “Gau Rakshaks”. The attackers then uploaded the video online as a warning.
The incident led to massive Dalit protests in Gujarat, which were leveraged by opposition parties who visited the victims’ families in Una.
Last year, the lynching of a Muslim man in UP’s Dadri over beef rumours fueled a debate on “intolerance”, with activists and opposition parties accusing the central government of encouraging fringe groups.