One Pehlu Khan from Haryana came to the cattle fair in Jaipur to purchase a buffalo. He was a dairy farmer. In the fair he was impressed by high milk yielding cows and bought those instead of a buffalo as per his original plan. On the way back in Alwar ‘Gau Rakshak’ (Cow protectors) attacked his group and mercilessly beat them up. (April 5, 2017).

In the attack Pehlu Khan died.

The police was nowhere around when the brutal beating was going on the main Jaipur-Delhi highway. The police that arrived later, said that cow smugglers had escaped their watch and were caught by the gau rakshaks. And went on to register cases against those beaten, including Pehlu Khan who was killed.

Not only was this murder was done in broad daylight, the assailants brazenly too and shared videos of the lynching on the mobile. The Rajasthan Minister in charge said that it is fine for cow protectors to catch these “smugglers” but that they should not beat them, and take law into their own hands! BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi went a step further in Parliament and even denied that any such killing has taken place. Pehlu Khan had all his papers in place to show the purchase of the cows as had all the others in the two vehicles that were intercepted by the cow vigilantes.

This is the latest in the series of mob lynchings in the name of cow. Earlier we had witnessed that In UP Dadri, the local mob with few of those who were part of BJP lynched Mohamad Akhlaq on the charge that he had killed the calf. The state of affairs of our communalized police is starkly clear. In case of Dadri lynching Mohammad Aklaq was charged with cow slaughter, and his family harassed and threatened for months after by the vigilantes and senior BJP leaders. Now a case has been filed against Pehlu Khan for illegal smuggling of bovines that he had bought at a cattle fair with full documentation. And was taking them home. In Una, not so long ago, Dalit youth were stripped, mercilessly beaten by cow vigilantes, the incident filmed shared widely.

It is during the last three years, after the Modi government came to power at the centre, that such incidents of brutality have spiked. A number of cow protection groups have sprung up across the states. Rajni K. Dixit in tells us that “ In the Constitution of India, prohibition of cow slaughter is included in the Directive Principles of State Policy (guidelines to the central and state government for framing policies, not enforceable in any court of law). The directives on cow slaughter are recorded in Article 48 which reads “The state shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught cattle” (Directive Principles of State Policy, Ministry of Law and Justice).”

It is abundantly clear that the ban is on the milch cattle in real terms. Also what the Constitution recognizes is the economic and ecological dimensions of the issue, not the religious one. Over a period of time the laws are being made more stringent in state after state, more particularly in the BJP ruled states.

This makes it clear that, the laws which came to be made over a period of time are in variance to the Directive principles envisaged by our founders. They are not against the slaughter of cows, but of milch cattle in general, and not for religious but for economic reasons.

Raman Singh Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh says that they will hang anybody indulging in cow slaughter. Vijay Roopani, Chief Minister of Gujarat, got the penalty for cow slaughter extended to life imprisonment. On top of that he has pledged that he will convert Gujarat into totally vegetarian state. Yogi Adityanath has not only talked against cow slaughter (whichhas been banned earlier in UP) but has acted even against those selling mutton and chicken. Adityanath, before the elections, at the time of the Dadri lynching had offered guns to Hindus. Taking the cue from UP’s Yogi, BJP ruled states of Uttarakhand, MP and Rajasthan have begun to crack the whip on slaughter houses and retail shops. Meanwhile VHP has demanded that other state Governments should emulate the laws of Gujarat with respect to the Cow!

There is another shade to the BJP-Beef story. BJP candidate for the Assembly bypoll in Mallapuram, Kerala, N.Sriprakash stated that he will ensure the availability of good quality beef in his constituency if he wins the elections. As per him “BJP has no objection towards consuming beef. The party has not banned beef in any of the states. Only cow slaughter was banned. There is no issue in consuming food of one’s choice.” In Kerala and North Eastern states the BJP dare not raise the issue of beef. In the Assam elections it had particularly promised that there will be no tampering with existing dietary practice although more recently 3 men were arrested in Jorhat for beef, although there seems to be no law on this issue in that state.

After the huge success in UP, the attacks around the cow have intensified. Also a general tirade against non vegetarian food and harassment of meat-Chicken traders has been stepped up. In Bengal consumption of fish is being criticized. In overzealous Gujarat the march towards total vegetarianism is planned.

Is it a matter of religion? No way! BJP’s language in the cow belt (UP, Rajasthan Haryana, MP) is different from its language in Kerala, Goa, Kashmir and North Eastern states. In other states it talks of respecting the food culture of local people. The entire campaign goes against Indian culture and the Indian Constitution. This is an attempt to impose the RSS-BJP-Brahmanical norms over the whole society and to intimidate the minorities in particular, and browbeat others who insist on a multitude of choices. As a byproduct of this identity related issue the economy is suffering. The Cattle fairs in different places are being stopped, meat exportis on the decline, and the ruin of farmers and dairy farmers is a foregone conclusion.