Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi&’s condemnation of cow vigilante groups nor the Union Home Ministry&’s advisory to State governments that “no person can, under any circumstances take the law into their own hands and that any person or persons doing so have to be dealt with strictly under relevant laws and brought to justice in the quickest possible fashion for the strictest punishment,” seems to have made much impact on gau rakshas. B Aravindan, a timber merchant of Amalapuram in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, requested two Dalits of nearby Sudapalem village, Mokati Elisha and Mokati Venkateswara Rao, to take away the carcass of his cow which had been electrocuted. As they were skinning the carcass on Tuesday, the day the Central advisory was published prominently in all newspapers, a group of eight gau rakshas descended on the scene, tied the two hapless Dalits to a tree and started lynching them. Savaram Lavan, an auto driver who tried to rescue the two, was beaten up. He however alerted the police who rescued the two and admitted them to hospital in a critical condition. The Sangh Parivar maintains it is its bounden duty to protect cows and point out that Modi&’s long silence since last year&’s Dadri lynching signifies his acquiescence, nay appreciation, of their vigilantism. Cow protection was one of the promises Modi made during the 2014 election campaign. It has become an article of faith for the Sangh Parivar to safeguard cows.

The approach of Assembly elections in Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh made the BJP realise that it could ill afford to displease the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the minority communities. Whatever the top leaders of the BJP may say or do, their cadres are casteist and communal. And the party can never divorce itself from the RSS. Most Dalits believe the BJP government is not on their side. With Dalits becoming more assertive in mainstream politics, the BJP will have to reconsider its strategy for winning their support. Cow vigilantism is done in the name of religion though no religion proscribes beef-eating. In a recent book titled Holy Cow — Beef in Indian Dietary Conditions, Dwijendra Narayan Jha, Professor of History, Delhi University, describes the beef-eating habits of ancient Hindus including Brahmins, Buddhists and even early Jains, and their fondness for cattle meat. No serious historian, not even Hindu ones like RC Majumdar or KM Munshi ever disputed that ancient Hindus ate beef. The book quotes copiously from ancient scriptures, medical texts, Manusmriti and religious commentaries to expose the ignorance and hypocrisy of the gau rakshas. Citing the Bhagavatisutra, the author points out that Mahavira once ate a chicken meal to gain strength for a yogic battle with an adversary. The last supper Buddha had was a meal of pork, says the book. RS Rawat, a BJP MP, has written to the Union Home Minister demanding not only to ban the book and burn copies but also arrest and prosecute its author and publisher.