Cow Vigilantism – UPSC GS1

  • The US State Department noted in its annual International Religious Freedom report that India has recorded a spike in violence related to religious intolerance since 2016 and official apathy against curbing cow vigilantism.
Issues at hand
  • Self-proclaimed ‘Gau Rakshaks’ attacking people under the pretext of carrying beef with the slightest doubt.
  • Justification of such actions on pretext of implementing Article 48 of Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) -“State shall organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern scientific lines; take steps to preserve and improve breeds and prohibit slaughter of cows, calves and other mulch and draught animals.
  • Animal husbandry is a State subject and several states made laws of varying degrees.
  • Supreme Court in Mohd Qureshi vs State of Bihar, 1958 upheld the ban taking into account the economical conditions stating that there should not be any slaughter of useful cattle. Moreover, in 2005 Supreme Court ruled that all the cattle are useful.
  • In May 2017, the Central Government brought out a notification that no cattle can be traded for slaughter in the market.
  • Recently, PM voiced his opinion at the difference between cow protection and cow vigilantism.  He remarked that 70-80 percent of Gau Rakshaks are anti-social and are taking laws into their hands.
Critical Analysis
  • Article 48 of DPSP is an economic directive without direct religious overtones since we have a secular constitution.
  • Vigilantism undermines the respect to law and order.
  • More than social implications, the issue is being sensationalized across foreign media. Impression of dangerous social fabric can harm India’s international image.
  • Since time immemorial, beef eating has been the practice of certain communities like Muslims, Christians, Dalits and so on.
  • The livelihood of people who are engaged in the leather industry and exports have been affected.
  • The animal industry itself will be impacted as the sale of old cattle gives seed money to invest on the new generation. So, there is an economic value attached to cattle for sale, instead of becoming stray animals.
Way forward
  • This is the issue of basic freedom especially of the weaker sections of the society.
  • There is a need for a change in system of justice delivery, with law and order against vigilantism.
  • We need to understand the fact that these are structured problems in the society and should recognize diversity. The cultural identity of everyone must be respected.

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