It may be unfair to endorse the charge that Nitish Kumar’s “new” credentials as head of a government in alliance with the BJP have been proven by Bihar’s first reported incident of cow vigilantism.
Yet it would be self-deception not to accept that the altered power equation in the state encouraged the violent miscreants, allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal, to go on the rampage.
For they seem to have been aware that, as has happened elsewhere across the region where the BJP wields clout, the law would hardly catch up with them.
It is not surprising that those who turned violent in Bhojpur were not immediately rounded up, but those carrying the bovine flesh (yet again has the lack of clarity between beef and “buff” come under focus) have been arrested for involvement with illegal slaughter.
Insight into the revised thinking is provided by one of the vigilantes who said that the police had “rescued” the men from the minority community in the truck ~ in other words they had been saved from the lynching they deserved. Those comments could well set off a chain reaction, and Bihar would join UP, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh etc as states where Gau Rakshaks wear a halo bright enough to legitimise their taking the law into their own hands.
It is also no coincidence that the continuing violence in the name of cow protection follows the Centre’s attempt to disown its responsibility by repeated assertions, in Parliament and elsewhere, that law and order is a state subject. Even without injecting a political angle into the equation it is no secret that most state governments are ill-equipped to handle organised crime of any description: and by now the myth has been exploded of cow vigilantism being triggered by bursts of outrage ~ it is a sinister campaign targeting the minority communities.
By using the “state subject” alibi home ministers Rajnath Singh and Kiren Rijiju are actually proving their own irrelevance, and that of North Block too. For ensuring the life and property of the citizen is the responsibility of the national government, citing Constitutional technicalities is an excuse that is patently lame. If that argument is accepted, the home ministry has a minimal role to play in tackling terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-east, or containing the Maoists in the “red corridor”.
Violence in the name of cow protection is a national malaise that has erupted only after 2014, the NDA leadership cannot evade its responsibilities.
As much as Nitish Kumar is under scrutiny after the Bhojpur violence, so too is the credibility and authority of Narendra Modi.
He has spoken “bold” against vigilantes but done little to curb the menace. Words, Prime Minister, are inadequate, bold action has to be taken.