The vicious assault on six cattle traders on the outskirts of the national Capital over the weekend sends out a clear signal ~ ineffective have been the passionate words of the Prime Minister at the Sabarmati Ashram a few days earlier. The call for an end to “cow vigilantism” has gone unheeded.

Maybe the supporters of the vigilantes will contend that there has been no more lynching after Narendra Modi hailed the message of the Mahatma, but there really is only a marginal difference between the actual taking of a life and severely thrashing a person ~ often the death is just a case of the evil having been carried a little too far.

It can be nobody’s case that the Prime Minister is personally responsible for the vigilantes running amuck, what does concern is that the activists of the anti-cow slaughter campaign have not reined in their foot-soldiers, or that ruling party leaders have not forcefully condemned the manner in which the law is being taken into their own hands by the emboldened lumpen.

Note that few talk of the “lunatic fringe” anymore, the goons have been absorbed into the mainstream. The tardy police action and investigation is added confirmation that the Prime Minister’s call for restraint has not trickled down, the “hands-on” ministers in the states (the persons entrusted with the maintenance of law and order) have not issued firm instructions to the cops: hence gau-rakshaks are considered legitimate.

A pattern seems to have been prescribed. Conveniently are no distinctions been made between cows and buffaloes ~ the religious sanctity accorded to the former is being over-stretched to take-in all bovine flesh, even though the export of buffalo meat had been a major earner of foreign exchange.

The fact that those involved in the slaughter of buffaloes are mostly from the minority community is another reason why the authorities turn a blind eye. Although a review was promised, there has been no modification of the controversial order preventing the sale at cattle fairs of animals headed for the abattoir. And while action has been taken against illegal slaughter-houses no efforts are being made to construct legal units.

The goons interpret all that as approval of their running riot, cutting the minorities down to size. That the livestock economy has been disrupted is small cause for concern: only Muslims and Dalits have to face the hardships.

The lack of government concern over the difficulties of Muslims, Dalits and Christians is in keeping with political polarisation that was palpable during the last Lok Sabha election, amplified in subsequent electoral forays. To put it bluntly, the vote-banks remain intact and that is all that seems to matter.

The “saffron” on the tricolor flutters proudly, the white and green do not merit consideration.