The Freedom to Kill Dictum  

3 Min
<strong>The Freedom to Kill Dictum  </strong>

Atul Cowshish

In recent days two incidents of horrible, mindless killings have rocked the country. The first was about the killing of two Muslim male cousins from Bharatpur district in Rajasthan.  Cow vigilantes alleged that they were smuggling cows and allegedly took them to a nearby town in Haryana where the victims were killed and their car was burnt.          

Such is the terror of the cow vigilantes that in an era bound by parts of Rajasthan, Haryana and Western UP, buying or moving with the cows purchased in one place to a village or home town in another place has become life-threatening. This has been going on with the police and the administration failing to provide security.

In the other incident, a 46-year-old woman and her 22-year-old daughter were found dead in their thatched hut in a village in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh (UP). The death of the two women belonging to the Brahmin community occurred after their hut was set on fire and a bulldozer ran over while demolishing their house alleged to have been constructed illegally.

The police and the authorities deny any role in the death of the victims in the two unrelated incidents but the question is about their efforts to prevent such incidents. Far too many people have been taking the law into their hands while the authorities have looked the other way.

In the case of alleged killing in Kanpur and two men by cow vigilantes, the police have made some arrests. In the Kanpur village case some petty officials have been blamed by senior officials for the death of the two women.

But the story is not about just the tragic end of four lives when similar incidents have occurred many times in the past and, unfortunately, may recur. The more worrisome aspect is the way the administration and police treat such cases as though nothing grave has happened.

A first question to be asked of the authorities is why no curbs have been put on the violent activities of the so-called cow vigilantes who assume a triple role of the prosecutor, juror and executioner? They have the freedom to accuse anyone of showing ‘disrespect’ to ‘Gau Mata’ (mother cow). Muslims are invariably accused of buying or possessing cows only for slaughtering them.  The charges are rarely substantiated while punishment of the perpetrators prescribed under the law is even rarer.

When lynching by cow vigilantes began with disconcerting regularity in 2014, Narendra Modi took some time to denounce it. In one speech he chided the cow vigilantes, who, he said, had mistakenly assumed that their acts would bring them fame. But incidents of lynching– of alleged ‘cow smugglers’ and even those identified by their dress–have continued. But if Modi really felt bad about it, he could have conveyed a stern message and backed it up by asking the law and order authorities to be strict with the vigilantes. He seems satisfied by accusing the so-called ‘non-state actors’ for the violent acts. 

The Kanpur tragedy once again put the spotlight on the ill-founded politics of bulldozer propounded with much fanfare by the UP chief minister, Adityanath. Under his watch people accused of ‘anti-national’ acts, a wide-ranging term that includes all manner of critics, will receive ‘instant justice’ in the form of bulldozing of their property. It was extended to those who are allegedly in possession of illegal land or property.

A person’s religion, it is claimed, plays no role in punishing under the bulldozing orders but it is a strange coincidence that most of its victims come from the minority community.

Senior officials who presumably issue the bulldozing order enjoy immunity; they are not accountable for dastardly acts even when the orders come directly from them. In Kanpur, those held responsible for burning and demolishing the hut of the two women are lowly officials while top district officials who issued the orders remain immune from facing any charges.

The higher judiciary in the land has expressed its displeasure against bulldozing houses and properties but the UP administration is not moved; in fact, some other states, notably Madhya Pradesh, have also embraced it.  By remaining indifferent to acts of violence against mostly innocent people is not shining India’s image in the world.  

Wild accusations and uninterrupted acts of violence against select targets will not help India recover from the loss of reputation already suffered. Sooner rather than later the faith of the majority of Indian voter in mindless acts of violence will be shaken, much to the discomfort of all those taking comfort in such acts. (SAT)