NEW DELHI -- While the family of Mohammad Akhlaq wants to mourn in peace, politicians in India are brazenly exploiting his death to score points and bolster their vote banks for near and far elections.
For the past week, the Bhartaiya Janata Party and the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh have exchanged barbs about inciting communal violence and creating religious divides, but now the politicisation of the tragic death has spilled into the neighbouring state of Bihar, which goes to the polls on October 12.
After Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav declared that "even Hindus eat beef," senior BJP leader Sushil Modi promised to ban cow slaughter if his party wins the election. Then, the Congress Party rushed to clarify that cow slaughter was already banned in the state under the Bihar Preservation and Improvement of Animals Act, 1955, and slammed the BJP for making a false promise.
"The forthcoming Assembly polls in Bihar is going to be a direct contest between those who justify beef eating and those seeking effective ban on cow slaughter....we, on our part, promise to frame an effective legislation to totally ban cow slaughter in the state if the NDA comes to power," Modi said in a statement, PTI reported.
Modi also said that Bihar had a law banning slaughter of cows below 14 years of age, but this legislation had not been effectively implemented by successive governments.
Jumping into the fray, Congress Party leader Digvijaya Singh pointed out that his party was responsible for banning cow slaughter in 24 states, and he said that they are open to a discussion on a national law against slaughter.
On September 28, Akhlaq and his family were attacked by a Hindu mob, which alleged that they had slaughtered a cow, and consumed beef in Bisada village near the town of Dadri in western Uttar Pradesh.
Akhlaq, a 52-year-old ironsmith, died as a result of the brutal beating, and his 22-year-old son, Danish, who was in a critical condition, is recovering in a local hospital.
Cows And Dogs
Under attack for his "even Hindus eat beef" remarks, Yadav quickly backtracked, but in a series of tweets on Tuesday, the RJD chief, who has allied with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the Bihar elections, unleashed a tirade against the BJP over caring about cows.
BJP in panic-without neta, niti & niyat in Bihar & facing defeat they're brazenly attempting to communalize & mask it with Modi's rhetorics— Nitish Kumar (@NitishKumar) October 6, 2015
Accusing the BJP of relying on communal politics, Yadav said that those who kept dogs as pets should not preach about the welfare of cows.
"Those who keep dogs as pets should not give us lessons about cows. Dogs not cows are tied up in BJP houses, and outside it is written, 'Beware of Dogs,'" he said. "How many of them have a cow shelter. I have 100-500 cows in my cow shelter. We have a history of taking care of cows."
कुत्ते पालने वाले हम गौ-पालकों को न सिखाये। BJP वालों के घर में गाय नहीं कुत्ते बंधे रहते है और घर के बाहर लिखा होता है "कुत्तों से सावधान"— Lalu Prasad Yadav (@laluprasadrjd) October 6, 2015
मेरी गौशाला में हरदम 100 -500 गायें रहती है. हमारे कुल देवता से लेकर अब तक हम लोगों का गाय माता पालने का गौरवशाली इतिहास रहा है.— Lalu Prasad Yadav (@laluprasadrjd) October 6, 2015
In its report to the Centre about the lynching in Bisada village, the U.P. government has not mentioned "beef" as a motive for the killing, but said that Akhlaq was attacked over allegations that he had consumed "prohibited animal meat," NDTV reported.
The report says that politics had led to unrest in the area, and it names leaders including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Telangana lawmaker Akbaruddin Owaisi and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, who have visited the Bisada village in western Uttar Pradesh over the past week, NDTV reported.
While the country is still waiting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence over the Dadri lynching, several BJP leaders including Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma have made outrageous remarks about the Akhlaq's killing - Just an accident".... "Arrest cow slaughterers instead".... "This happens everyday."
BJP lawmaker Sangeet Som, accused of inciting religious tensions ahead of the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, has warned Samajwadi Party against framing of innocents and appeasing minorities by “helping those who had slaughtered a cow."
Vishal Rana, the main accused, is the 20-year-old son of BJP leader Sanjay Rana, who is reportedly related to seven out of the ten accused.
This week, the Home Ministry issued an advisory for all states to ensure zero tolerance for those who "attempt to weaken the secular fabric of the nation and exploit religious sentiments," and called for the strictest action against communal violence, without exception.
Following his lecture at Columbia University in New York on Monday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told journalists that instances like Dadri tarnished India's image in the world, and he said that it was the duty of all Indians to condemn it.