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Onus on leadership to speak out against self-appointed 'gau rakshaks'

Monday, April 17, 2017
By Virendra Kapoor

Stray incidents detract from agenda of vikas and spoil country’s image

What constitutes the mainstream of the Sangh parivar? Those who kill in the name of cow, and/or roam the streets waylaying young couples, ostensibly to uphold the honour of the womenfolk, and/or offer bounties on the heads of rival politicians? Or those occupying ministerial posts at the Centre and in the States? Granted, the question is unfair but nevertheless needs to be asked.

When the leadership and much of the party rank and file chooses to remain silent in the face of periodic assaults against the basic rights of the people, purportedly for the sake of defending one’s faith and/or country, the difference between the fringe and the mainstream stands greatly blurred . Foot soldiers of any movement take their cues from the leadership. Silence of the leader eggs further the wayward core to cross the bounds of law and common decency. Killing in the name of cow is neither sanctioned in law nor in religion. It is an affront to both.

It cannot be that those occupying various ministerial gaddis are unaware of the dangers of letting loose gau rakshaks against suspected cow slaughterers and beef-eaters. But even if the silence is tactical, which it seems it is, it only redounds to their discredit and, ultimately, diminishes respect for cows in the society and causes popular revulsion against perpetrators of such wanton acts. A people organized around a common foundational compact cannot afford to look on mutely while backwoodsmen swearing fealty to some voodoo practices of ancient times wreak havoc on unsuspecting fellow citizens. The onus to speak up is the greatest on those in authority

Surprisingly, a number of people ensconced in key positions in government or those otherwise able to exercise influence have failed to send out a clear message. Making it amply clear that taking the law into their own hands will attract strictest possible punishment can greatly end this madness which has besmirched the otherwise wholesome record of the Modi Sarkar. In modern day and age killing over cows is senseless, especially when the stressed agrarian economy is in no position to sustain tens of lakhs of non-milch bovine population. Millions of humans of all religious persuasions will be rendered jobless should a blanket ban be imposed on disposing of old and non-milch cows — of course under modern and hygienic conditions.

It may be that cow holds a special place in our cultural and historical context. A lot of myths surround the veneration of cow. Yet, no tradition can remain immune to the advance of time and progress. Clinging unthinkingly to these shibboleths can result in bypassing fully the gains of science and modernism. No longer are bullocks integral to farming. Likewise, preserving, nay, venerating cows well past their sell-by-date, particularly when humans do not have enough to keep their body and soul together, is a throwback to the pre-industrial ages.

It is a shame that those who should know better have failed to say a word edgeways in condemnation of the periodic killings in the name of holy cow. Even when the Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat has rebuked the cow-killers in his latest public remarks, the new converts to the Sangh standard have maintained a stony silence. Putting personal gain ahead of basic decency is a conscience-killer. Unselfish believers do not become apologists of the wrongs committed in the name of the party. Instead, a true believer would not hesitate to speak out because speaking out is the best way to guard against the party slipping into disarray and irrelevance. Longevity in power is not assured by selfishness. The so-called intellectuals playing mini-me to Modi ought to call a spade a spade when the saffron parivar strays from the path of constitutionalism.

Meanwhile, it is unlikely that you have not noticed the clear disconnect between the furious effort to virtually drag the country, tied hand- and-foot, into the digital era and the fitful but undeniable exertions of a section of the Sangh parivaar to push it back into the dark ages. Modi’s near-obsessive push for the use of modern technology for delivery of government services diverges widely from the renewed zeal of the parivar to whip up passions over cow and Ram mandir.

Admittedly, the parallel modern versus ancient dynamics does not seem to be part of any premeditated strategy. It is more an indication of the socio-economic character of the larger Sangh parivar. The disjunction reflects the prevailing confusion in the Nagpur establishment, with the BJP progressives afraid to risk confrontation with the simple-minded but well-entrenched Hindutva zealots who generally have had the benefit of a 21st century worldview.

In time, the struggle between the traditionalists harking back to an imagined glorious past and the modernists or rather realists would be settled in favour of the latter. On that score, we need not lose heart. The inexorable march of modernity is impossible to halt. In the meantime, the effort should be to minimize collateral damage even as Nagpur and New Delhi work out a middle ground.

Once a thief, always a thief
Laloo Yadav has sought to justify the acquisition of a multi-crore mall in Patna by his sons, arguing that they could not be expected to go about all their lives in ‘tattered clothes.’ That is right. But the real question is what did his sons, Tejaswi and Tej Pratap, both ministers in the Nitish Kumar Government, do to own this and several other prime properties. As far as we know, they had never done a day’s honest work to become multi-billionaires. Was the fodder scam loot invested in the land?

The fact that Laloo’s long-time money-keeper, Prem Gupta, whom he has rewarded with multiple terms in the Rajya Sabha, first acquired the shares in the company and subsequently transferred them to the junior Yadavs and their mother only strengthens suspicion about the illicit nature of the transaction.

But what is far more audacious is that in order to make money even from `mitti,` which necessarily must be extracted for building a basement at the proposed mall site, Laloo’s sons could not resist the temptation to bill the poor Bihar taxpayers. A clever stratagem was devised by Tej Pratap Yadav as minister in-charge of the Patna zoo. The mitti from the proposed mall site would be bought for Rs. 90 lakhs, ostensibly for relaying pathways in the zoo.

Never mind the clear conflict of interest. It is a straightforward case of broad daylight robbery. Llike father, like sons, did you say? Remember that Laloo stands convicted in one of the fodder scam cases while several others are proceeding against him.

Nitish fed up with RJD
While still on Laloo, the buzz in the political circles is that Nitish Kumar is disgusted with his alliance partner and may, sooner rather than later, choose to go his own separate way. Finding himself trapped in a cul-de-sac, he would ideally like to revive the partnership with the BJP. Conducive conditions for a reunion of the old allies could emerge in the coming months. Tentative efforts in this direction have already begun.

Notably, Laloo has accused Nitish’s aides of providing incriminating documents against him to the BJP leader Sushil Modi. More such material exposing the misdeeds of the Yadav clan is expected. It seems the mall in Patna is not the only high-value property owned by Laloo’s family. Even as Nitish seems to have lost control over the RJD ministers in his own Government, Laloo remains unrepentant, furiously undermining his ally in order to foist Tejaswi, currently deputy chief minister, as chief minister.

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