Over 100 military veterans in India united to pen a public letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemning the hostile targeting of Muslims and Dalits (the lowest caste in Hindu tradition) for their consumption of beef.
The letter reflects the strong stance against violence and stated that “We can no longer look away. We would be doing a disservice to our country if we do not stand up and speak for the liberal and secular values that our Constitution espouses … Our diversity is our greatest strength.”
This letter comes a month after protestors stormed the streets of India in support of the “Not in My Name” campaign against mob violence against minorities.
The letter collectively demanded action from the Indian government and affirmed their defiant support for the “Not in My Name” campaign. It furthered the call for the clampdown on the liberation of free speech and civil rights.
The letter stands against the self-proclaimed and appointed ‘cow vigilantes’ over their recent killings in the name of Gau Bhakti (cow devotion). This controversy stems from the wave of fear and intimidation deriving from Hindu cow-protectionism in the name of religion. India’s Hindu-dominated demographics regard the cow as holy, and, as a result, the slaughtering of cows is banned in several Indian states and publicly condemned.
In May 2017, two Muslim men died of injuries sustained after being assaulted by villagers in the North-Eastern Indian state of Assam. The local police reported that they were suspected of stealing cows. Meanwhile, a string of other attacks occurred the following month when twenty men attacked four Muslims on a train.
As such, the letter pens the veterans’ concern about the unwarranted violence, “We are witness to unprecedented attacks on society at large by the relentless vigilantism of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism…”
To expand, the campaign “Not in My Name” stemmed from the killing of a 16-year-old boy for his consumption of beef. However, one begs to question as to whether the consumption of cows is the real motivation behind these attacks, given the sensitive political climate in India and the wave of global Islamophobia. On the other hand, those who are publicly condemning the killings are fighting, not merely for the consumption of beef, rather they are extending the reach of their protests to call for free speech and other civil rights.
The open letter highlights the importance of free democracy and argues that “Dissent is not treason; in fact, it is the essence of democracy.”
Furthermore, since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rise in the political regime in 2014, there have been unparalleled waves of mob violence and lynchings targeting Muslims and Dalits, for their consumption of beef and buffalo meat. Critics have accused far-right Hindu groups, with known links to the BJP, of not acting on the violence against Muslims and lower-caste Hindus who consume beef or are in the line of work involving cattle products.
Similarly, an opposition leader, Mallikarjun Kharge, expressed his concern and said that “The entire country is living in fear and there is an atmosphere of terror.”
With that said, earlier in the month, Prime Minister Modi responded to the killings stressing and stated that “Killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti (cow devotion) is not acceptable.” Modi’s public condemnation of these self-proclaimed cow vigilantes is a response to the opposition leader, Kharge’s accusation of the Modi government’s discreet support of the Hindu far right.
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