NEW DELHI – Defending the rights of animals is taking a whole new level with the rise of the “cow vigilantes” in India.
In the past there has been generally continuous efforts by several of the Hindu communities in India in calling for stricter and more expansive laws for the protection of cows. However, the rise of this new wave of vigilantism coincided with the victory of the Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which according to Shashi Tharoor, a former UN under-secretary-general and former Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Minister of State for External Affairs, in article on the Project Syndicate website, marked the rise of a wave religious triumphalism for orthodox Hindus in India.
Such communities efforts to protect cows, which they hold as sacred, however, is increasingly taking a more sinister turn as various areas in India experience a spike in violence by such communities against individuals that are seen as in participating in the slaughter and consumption of cows, including the Muslim community in which cow meat consumption is accepted as completely normal. The majority of the incidents are taking place in the northern Indian states that is becoming known as the “cow belt” because of the high concentration of orthodox Hindu communities in this area that refuse the consumption of cow meat.
The increasing of the vigilantes took on several forms including cutting off roads and attacking cars transporting cows, lynching drivers, and punishing cow slaughter with life in prison. The side of the vigilantes with the incorporation of many of the organizations within the Indian system and a relatively loose response by the state. For example, according to the NPR, Sadhvi Kamal Didi who is the head of the women’s division of the National Cow Protection Group have stated that the members of her group would take the law into their own hands and that “[w]e are not going to allow cow smuggling. And we won’t allow them to be slaughtered. Whoever wants to stay here in India, they stay here as a Hindu. This is our country, we should dominate, and things should happen according to us”.
While the events fall under an increasing trend of severe disruptions within the social fabric of the Indian society, they can also be said to be a representative of a pattern experienced at the international level. As with the rise of the BJP in India, the world largely has been seeing the strong rise of the far right world wide and in more extreme forms. This comes after years from the start of the millennia as the world slowly started becoming disillusioned with the left and the latter falling into ineffectiveness and squabbling over what is being increasingly seen as petty issues allowing for the reorientation towards extreme nationalism and conservative politics. It might then be possible to see the disruptions taking place within India as a form of mirror to what might happen on the international level.