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Vigil on cow vigilantes
Supreme Court's strong message to all states about checking violent Gau Rakshaks is welcome
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The Supreme Court's strong message to all the states in the country to appoint nodal officers in each district to keep a check on the aggressive "Cow Vigilantes" before they take law into their own hands in the name of cow protection is welcome. In fact, the observation of the SC that the states have been lagging in keeping a check on the illegal activities of the Gau Rakshaks is something that the needs serious attention of the rulers in the country. It is a telling commentary on our times that it needs the SC to remind those in power that they cannot remain silent while vigilantes take the law into their own hands in the name of cow protection. Sending out a stern message that the time has come to end the activities of aggressive Gau Rakshaks, the SC has directed the States and Union Territories to appoint nodal police officers in each district to crack down on such mobs. The SC order came after the counsel for Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan offered to appoint such district nodal officers to check vigilante groups and act promptly whenever offences take place. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed after many people have lost their lives and many more injured when they were attacked by such elements in various parts of the country. For over a year now, instances of such groups beating up and even killing persons allegedly suspected of transporting cattle or bovine meat have become commonplace. The court had issued notices to the Centre and some States in April on the PIL that sought action against such cow protection groups. In the few months since then, more incidents of lynching have taken place across the country and the governments did not take any action against such elements. A group of villagers killed two persons transporting cattle in West Bengal less than two weeks ago. Three persons were killed in the same State in June after they were accused of cattle theft from a particular area. Three persons were injured badly when they were beaten up last month in Bihar. In more than one State, cow 'protectors' have legal recognition as local laws provide immunity to them if they were acting in good faith. The validity of such provisions in laws aimed at banning or regulating slaughter of animals and protecting the cow may be decided in the course of these proceedings.

Rise in number of such violent incidents in various parts of the country is a matter of serious concern when the rulers are obliquely supporting Gau Rakshaks on one pretext or the other. Curbing cow vigilantism requires an obvious change in the police's approach in different states of the country to these incidents. In most cases, they register cases against the victims for slaughter or theft of cattle. It is typical, the administration appears eager to determine if they were engaged in cow slaughter or transportation of bovine meat than in arresting the culprits involved in murder and violence. A related question is whether the Centre ought to take recourse to Article 256 of the Constitution of India, which empowers it to issue directions to the States, to put an end to the activities of cow vigilantes, instead of shirking its responsibility on the ground that this is essentially a law and order issue to be addressed by the States. Under the present circumstances, the Centre can no more ignore its credibility deficit because of the ruling dispensation's ideological commitment to cow protection. It has to respond rationally to the charge that it is soft on vigilantism and is keen on pushing animal slaughter rules aimed at making life difficult for those engaged in the cattle trade for their livelihood. Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a few months ago that killing people in the name of cow worship is unacceptable. But this is yet to be seen how his declaration has been translated on the ground by different states. The law and the way it is administered must demonstrate that these are not empty words and some action has been initiated against such elements.

News Updated at : Saturday, September 9, 2017
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