CHANDIGARH: “All the weak and undeveloped minds in every religion or country have only one way of loving their own ideal, i.e. by hating every other ideal.”

– Swami Vivekananda
(Spoken at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893)

Cow-Vigilantes and others of similar ilk, who have been lynching and committing murder and have shamed the nation, remind me of the popular song "Who Let the Dogs Out?" that had won the Grammy Award in 2001 (Link: ). The meaning of the lyrics is profound, as they mention how disrespectful men, akin to barking dogs, pollute the environment and scare everyone.

Since most dogs are loveable and adorable creatures, I have substituted ‘Goons’ instead of dogs in the title.

Actions of the vigilantes have rightly been stated as: “in incident after incident, transportation of cattle; suspicion of possession or consumption of beef; transportation or possession of cattle carcasses; have been sufficient provocations for a lynch mob to appear and inflict gruesome violence and horrific brutality”. Similarly, in J&K for instance, lynching is also carried out in the name of religion.

These vigilantes are of course ‘goons’ of the worst type, but more importantly we need to focus on those who have indoctrinated them; egged them on; and are responsible for instigating them to carry out the heinous crimes against innocents in the name of religion. They are the ‘who’ part of the lyric. These dubious leaders are pushing their convoluted agendas unmindful of the great harm to the social fabric of our nation, whose ethos has always been strength in diversity; accommodation; Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam; and that simple but powerful word ‘bhai-chara’.

In the past, many analysts, including this writer, have stated that the social divide being perpetuated by political parties in the name of religion, caste, creed and so on, to meet their personal and party agendas, is ruining the country.

It is only politicians and the clergy who are poisoning the minds of the gullible by imposing unnecessary curbs on individual freedom.

Unfortunately, during cow vigilantism and violence by others too, the police have been mere bystanders, whether in the cow-belt, J&K or elsewhere. The political leaders, with their well-oiled propaganda machine assure us (falsely) that all is under control, but the discerning citizen understands what is going on. Remember how they tossed out the earlier party in power for their misdeeds. If the present government thinks they can get away with murder, they must be absurdly naïve!

Encouraging mobs to carry out mindless violence is not governance; it is a sure way of committing hara-kiri! The situation, in the words of sociologist Shiv Visvanathan, is "politics of insecurity and anxiety" which is leading to anarchy even as the "state watches lynching as a spectacle".

The PM took a long time in taking cognizance of the violent actions of the so-called Gau-Bhagats, even though they have been on a lynching/murder spree for the last few months. He spoke against the vigilantes at Ahmadabad on 29 June. Despite his statement, yet another poor and innocent Muslim meat trader was murdered the same day! The police in our country unfortunately take their cues from the Netas, as they know which side of their bread is buttered! Consequently, they neither charge the culprits correctly nor collect evidence that would convict them.

PM Modi had earlier spoken on the mindless violence of the gau-rakshaks about a year back, in Telangana, when he had said: “If you have to attack, attack me. Stop attacking my Dalit brethren. If you have to shoot, shoot me, but not my Dalit brothers. This game should stop.” He had followed it up by lashing out at “fake cow protectors” for trying to create “tension and conflict” in society and had asked states to take stringent action against self- proclaimed cow vigilante groups. However, later events had proved that his statements had no effect, as in recent months so many unfortunate innocents have been murdered in the name of the holy, lovable, docile and economically useful cow.

In his statement, he had stressed that ‘a country wedded to Gandhian ideals has forgotten non-violence; and had rhetorically asked: what has happened to us? Perhaps his remarks were forced by the country-wide protests against lynching under the programme – “Not in My Name” that had spilled on the streets?

Some have speculated that maybe the admonishments were on account of major criticism expressed by the foreign media and concerns stated by potential foreign investors. Whatever be the case, it is hoped that it will have a salutary effect on those “who have let the ‘goons’ out”!

While the goons stand identified, there is apparently no answer to “who” let the goons out?

We do need to identify them, as well as their motivation to commit these heinous crimes, otherwise their denials will let them escape the law and these goons will re-commence their sordid deeds.

It is time that the Saffron groups, as well as violent Muslim groups stop their religious fanaticism. They need to realize that the bulk of the citizens no longer buy this, as they are now politically savvy and fully understand how they are being made fools of by these politically and religiously motivated groups. The bulk of the citizens are appalled at the acts of these vigilantes, whether in the cow belt; in J&K’ or the odd one in a southern state. The polity wants to see severe action being taken, especially against the leaders. It is time political parties realize that Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims are no longer the same gullible vote banks as in the past. They can only be wooed by good governance; additional jobs; better education; due focus on health; genuine curbs on inflation; and the liberty to pursue their own vocations, with no interference from the state. Although many citizens choose to remain silent, they fully understand that small-scale and large-scale violence are intimately connected and the perpetuation of hate crimes can easily lead to wider violence.

Let political leaders stop the sham they display by token sharing of meals with the Dalits and then running to cleanse themselves; or joining in Iftaar parties; or making false promises to the simple Adivasi’s; and shedding crocodile tears when they deign to visit the bereaved families, surrounded by a posse of gun-wielding black-cats! In short, let political leaders; their ideologues; and self-proclaimed ‘bhagats’ cleanse their hearts, souls and conscience that have polluted their dastardly agendas.

It is also about time that the media – print and electronic– starts acting as the conscience-keepers of the nation, as they are meant to be and must not be partisans. Sensationalism must stop and there needs to be crisp reportage of news and not embellished by one-sided views! It is only then that the nation will awaken and become powerful.

Let them take a cue from the armed forces that are so deeply integrated that caste, creed, religion and reservations of any type are not just frowned upon but abhorred. It is for these reasons that the Indian Military has always secured the nation with élan and pride and provided succor to the needy.

Let me end with an anonymous quote:

‘If there were no religion, there would be only two kinds of people -
Good people and Bad people.
The Good people would do Good things, and the Bad people would do Bad things.
But to get a Good person to do Bad things - You need Religion! '

(Lt General Vijay Oberoi is former Vice Chief of Army Staff)