UDUPI, KARNATAKA: Even while the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad quibble with Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the percentage of ‘genuine’ cow vigilantes in India, one more person was killed and his friend grievously injured in an attack in Karnataka for transporting cows.

The victim, Prashant Poojary was killed. His friend Akshay Devadiga is in hospital. The Karnataka government claims to have arrested 18 persons.

This comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence on the issue and spoke of 70-80% of gau rakshaks being anti social persons, who were cow protectors in the day and goons at night. This statement got the PM flak, the first visible offensive after over two years since he came to power. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad was openly critical of the claim and the RSS intervened to say that the percentage was exaggerated.

Gau Rakshaks have been operating in different parts of the country, resorting to hate violence in which the victims have been killed and/or seriously injured. The lynching of a man in Dadri by a mob of such vigilantes was a national shocker, with Mohammad Akhlaq being beaten to death for allegations spread over loud speakers from a temple that he and his family were eating beef. His son was also beaten and seriously injured at the time. Several months later after the incident took place late last year, a counter case has been filed by the vigilantes against the poor and traumatised family, on grounds that the meat found in their house was indeed beef. This comes after the first forensic report had made it clear that the meat was not cow beef.

In a spate of violence targeting Muslims two cattle traders were hung from a tree by alleged cow vigilantes in Jharkhands Latehar district in March this year. There have been several serious assaults on allegations and rumours with the attack on Dalits in Una becoming a game changer for the community. Seven persons of a Dalit family were attacked by these vigilantes in Gujarat for skinning a dead cow, four of them were stripped , tied to a car and brutally beaten. The major protest subsequently led PM Modi to make a statement differentiating between the genuine, and the anti-social cow protectors and went on in a subsequent speech at Hyderabad to say “attack me, shoot me, but not the Dalits”. The Una stir, however continued, and culminated just recently in a mammoth Mahasammelan on Independence Day in which thousands of Dalits in Gujarat took a pledge not to lift dead cows, or clean the sewers.

The VHP sounded the bugle of rebellion by questioning the PM’s observations in what is a first since the BJP government came to power at the centre. VHP international working president Pravin Togadia who has had differences with PM Modi in the past but maintained public silence took strong exception to his comments against cow vigilantes. Togadia expressed “utmost dissatisfaction and agony” and wondered how the PM had given a clean chit to “cow butchers”.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by calling cow vigilantes anti-social, has insulted them. The government should rather have talked to them. The PM’s directive to states to create dossiers of cow vigilantes amounts to racial profiling of Hindus as they are the ones who give their lives for protecting the animal,” Togadia said.

(Cover Photo: Prashant Poojary was killed by cow vigilantes in Karnataka)