18/07/2017 11:48 AM IST | Updated 18/07/2017 12:54 PM IST

Why PM Modi's Condemnation Of Cow Vigilantes Means Nothing At All

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is planning to recruit 'holy warriors' to protect cows.

POOL New / Reuters
File photo of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Sunday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi denounced self-styled cow protectors as "anti-social elements", the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) reportedly announced a plan to impart arms training to gau rakshaks (cow protectors) to "deal with" cow slaughterers. The Telegraph quoted an unnamed VHP official who said that such "dharma yoddhas" (holy warriors) will be recruited and trained by them.

"We shall equip gau rakshaks (cow protectors) to deal with cow slaughterers," Praveen Togadia, the VHP's international working president, reportedly said in three different meetings with members of the right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, on Sunday.

"Some anti social elements have incited violence in the name of cow protection," PM Modi had said on Sunday. "Those engaged in disturbing the harmony in the country are trying to take advantage of the situation."

"All the political parties should condemn strongly this goondaism in the name of cow protection."PM Modi

Asking for state governments to "deal sternly" with such people, the PM said such cow vigilantism was not an alternative.

"All the political parties should condemn strongly this goondaism in the name of cow protection," he said.

The VHP, along with sister outfit Bajrang Dal, is reportedly planning on recruiting "dharma yoddhas" from hundreds of villages in Aligarh, followed by other districts in UP.

The apparent dichotomy between the PM's message and the fringe Hindu group's brazen preparations for arming cow vigilantes is not surprising. Historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam, professor and Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Social Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), told Indian Express that there is usually implicit understanding between members of lynch mobs and top leadership in democracies.

"[I]t is all based on doublespeak," he told the newspaper in an interview. "So, there is an occasional, pious, public message to say the authorities disapprove of certain actions, but then there is the dog-whistle by which people are also being relayed the opposite of what the official message is."

PM Modi has shifted responsibility to state governments to take action against such cow vigilantes. But unless those indulging in violence are held accountable, the PM's words fall flat.

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