NEW DELHI (Sputnik): India’s
right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is providing cover for Hindu
vigilantes who avenge the killing or trading of cows, often thinly-veiled
excuses for lynch mobs directed at Muslims and low-caste Hindus, according to a
new report by Human Rights Watch. The police routinely delay or ignore
investigations in these murders.
A report issued Monday
by HRW highlights the mob murders of dozens of Indians since Prime Minister
Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Between May 2015 and December 2018, at
least 44 people have been killed across 12 Indian states and around 280 people
injured in 20 states by so-called “cow protection groups” — Hindu
vigilantes seeking to punish people who kill or disrespect cattle, which they
hold to be sacred.
Nearly all of those
killed and injured have been Muslims, low-caste Hindus called Dalits, and
members of a South Asian indigenous people called Adivasis, according to the
“In almost all of
the cases, the police initially stalled investigations, ignored procedures or
even played a complicit role in the killings and cover-up of crimes,” the
HRW report states. “Instead of promptly investigating and arresting
suspects, the police filed complaints against victims, their families and
witnesses under laws that ban cow slaughter. In several cases, political
leaders of Hindu nationalist groups, including elected BJP officials, defended
The report mentions a
particularly egregious case in Uttar Pradesh in December 2018 when, following
the murder of two people by mob violence, the state’s chief minister went on to
warn people: “Illegal slaughtering, and not just cow slaughter, is banned
in the entire state.”
Beef is consumed mostly
by religious and ethnic minorities in India, and cow slaughter is forbidden in
most parts of the country, where 80 percent of the population, or roughly 960
million people, are Hindu. By contrast, India’s Muslim population is 14.2
percent of the population, or around 172 million people, according to the
country’s 2011 census.
In many of the attacks,
the victims were not obviously part of any kind of cattle slaughter or trading
and were simply targeted for being members of a minority that does, at times,
eat or trade in bovines and their meat.
“In addition to
beating up cattle traders and transporters that have caused serious injuries,
even fatalities, cow protectors have reportedly assaulted Muslim men and women
in trains and railway stations in Madhya Pradesh state, stripped and beat Dalit
men in Gujarat, force-fed cow dung and urine to two men in Haryana, raided a
Muslim hotel in Jaipur and raped two women and killed two men in Haryana for
allegedly eating beef at home,” HRW wrote.
Modi, who hails from
the right-wing BJP, helped whip up nationalistic support for his party’s successful
2014 election campaign by raising the specter of a “pink revolution”
which he claimed endangered the sacred bovines. Modi coined the term to
describe a purported change in food consumption patterns similar to the famed
“green revolution” in the country’s agriculture in the 1970s.
However, according to
data from the United Nations’ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), per capita
consumption of beef and veal in India has actually decreased in the last 10
years, with the largest decrease happening before Modi took office in May 2014.
In 2008, India clocked in at 1.063 kilograms of beef and veal consumed per
capita, falling to 0.346 kg/c in 2014 and increasing only slightly since then
to 0.520 kg/c last year.
to a survey by New Delhi Television (NDTV) cited by HRW, “there was a
nearly 500 percent increase in the use of communally divisive language in
speeches by elected leaders — 90 percent of them from the BJP — between 2014
and 2018, as compared to the five years before the BJP came to power. Cow
protection formed an important theme in a number of these speeches.”
The report includes
several examples of this rhetoric coming from BJP officials, including the
chief ministers and lawmakers of several Indian states.
“We will hang
those who kill cows,” Raman Singh, the BJP chief minister of Chhattisgarh,
said in April 2017.
“I had promised
that I will break the hands and legs of those who do not consider cows their
mother and kill them,” said Uttar Pradesh lawmaker Vikram Saini, a member
of BJP, in March 2017.
continue to live in this country, but they will have to give up eating
beef,” said Manohar Lal Khattar, the BJP chief minister of Haryana, in
October 2015. “The cow is an article of faith here.”
“Calls for cow
protection may have started out as a way to attract Hindu votes, but it has
transformed into a free pass for mobs to violently attack and kill minority
group members,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW’s South Asia director.
“Indian police investigations into mob attacks are almost as likely to
accuse the minority victims of a crime as they are to pursue vigilantes with
also threatened us with arrest under cattle protection laws, saying they will
put our whole family in jail,” the brother of one victim told HRW.
“You won’t put
your face on video committing a crime if you’re bothered about being
punished,” Indian social worker and writer Harsh Mander told the Times.
“You’re assured that you’ll be protected and treated like a hero.”
Activists have long
sought government restraint of pro-vigilante rhetoric and the imposition of
anti-lynching laws. In July 2018, India’s Supreme Court ordered
“preventive, remedial and punitive” measures to combat lynching by
cow protectors. “It is imperative for them to remember that they are
subservient to the law and cannot be guided by notions or emotions or
sentiments or, for that matter, faith,” the court said.
Only in August 2018 did
Modi speak out against vigilante attacks by cow protectors, saying, “I
want to make it clear that mob lynching is a crime, no matter the motive.”
However, he’s dismissed the idea that such attacks express any kind of
“They’ve created an
enabling and supportive environment for people to act out their hate,”
Mander said. “Once you let the genie out of the bottle, it’s not going to
obey you and just go back in.”