VIDEO CONTENT | ‘Gau Rakshak’ has killed at least 44 people in India – Who are the Cow Vigilantes?

Members of a cow vigilante group patrol the streets of a district in India’s Rajasthan

According to a shocking report released by HRW (Human Rights Watch) regarding the cow-related violence incidents in India, the extreme right and Hindu extremists has killed at least 44 people for allegedly eating beef or slaughtering cows. Such cases have particularly swelled up in recent years, as Bhartiya Gau Rakshak Dal behaves as the extremist arm of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has worked to secure hardline Hindu votes for Modi.

HRW urged India to take action against the ‘cow protection’ groups, as most of the victims are either Muslims, Dalits or vulnerable individuals belonging to the minorities.

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According to a report by Reuters, a total of 63 cow vigilante attacks had occurred in India between 2010 and mid-2017, mostly since the Modi government came to power in 2014. In these attacks between 2010 and June 2017.

“28 Indians – 24 of them Muslims – were killed and 124 injured” – the report stated. 

HRW said that at least 44 people have been killed between May 2015 and December 2018. Among them, 36 Muslims have been killed in attacks over beef consumption, while 280 have been injured.

“According to a survey by New Delhi Television, there was a nearly 500% increase in the use of communally divisive language in speeches by elected leaders – 90% of them from the BJP – between 2014 and 2018, as compared to the five years before the BJP came to power” –  stated HRW in the report.

HRW further added that police also sympathizes with them, arrests them for a week and then lets them go. South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly says that while these Cow Vigilante’s have been formed for strengthening Hindu vote bank, they have set a horrifying precedent for the mob violence. The cow is venerated as a sacred symbol in Hindu religious texts hence these groups justify their acts of violence as assuring the state laws are being followed (as India bans the slaughter of cows).

With having a place in religious texts, they also have a political significance. The groups were formed in the early 19th century by nationalist groups to protect Hindu essence and imply how Hindus are different than beef-eating Muslims and British colonialists.

IndiaSpend, an NGO, tracked cow-related killings from the year 2010 to 2018, concluding that 97% of these incidents took place after 2014 – the year in which Narendra Modi came to power.


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