#Lynch Mob II – ‘Gau Rakshaks Are Beasts’

On his way to a veterinary hospital with his cow, Kailashnath Shukla (70) was accosted by a group of men who claimed to be gau-rakshaks. On mere suspicion that he was taking an old cow to sell it to slaughterhouse, Shukla was beaten up and paraded around. He recounts the horror:   I am a small farmer living alone in my village, Lakshmanpur (in Balrampur district of central Uttar Pradesh). My sons have migrated to Meerut city for work and at this age I cannot till my traditional land anymore. It also gets lonely here without my sons but I have my cow Gauri for company. She gives ample milk to allow me a modest livelihood. Gauri is like my daughter, my pride. I have tended her when she was a calf. I consider myself her father, her protector. But I dread the word gau rakshak. For, a group of complete strangers attacked me recently on the pretext of protecting my Gauri. At this age (70), can any man bear a violent physical attack from a mob? Now, I cannot think of leaving this village with my cow. This happened a couple of months ago. Gauri fell ill and I had to take her to the vet for a check-up. As I couldn’t afford a dalla (a four-wheeler cart used to transport cattle), I decided to walk the entire stretch with Gauri by my side. I started early in the morning, after taking a meal. I could have reached the vet dispensary in one day, but Gauri being unwell and slow to move, I had to break the journey into two days. At dusk, I took a halt at a bus stop of village Sarsavaan. And the next morning, I started my journey on foot again. By afternoon, as I reached Juathan Srinagar village, I noticed that I was drawing attention. People looked at me with suspicion… and exchanged words as if they had identified a criminal. What I didn’t know then was that some local miscreants had spread the word last evening on mobile phones that they had spotted a man who was taking an old cow to a slaughterhouse for money. Soon, a small group of people began to follow me. A young man accosted me and asked: “Aur chacha….kahaan chal diye…gaaye kitne me bechne jaa rahe ho (Where are you going, old man? …how much are you going to sell this cow for?)” Amid all this minor commotion and among strangers, Gauri got nervous and freed herself to step into the nearby fields. As I followed her into the fields, I saw a couple of angry men walking threateningly towards me. Before I could ask anything, they attacked me. They used fists and legs to beat me up. I heard them accusing me of trying to sell my cow to butchers and that they would not let that happen to cows any more. They also asked me my full name and finding that I am a Hindu, they said, I deserved bigger punishment for being a Hindu and a cow killer both. I doubled over with pain but they took no pity on me. Once they had their fill, they painted my face black and put a garland of garbage around my neck and tied me up with the shackles of my own cow. Thankfully, a man informed the police and soon some cops came to my rescue. One policeman gave me an unsolicited advice: “Chacha maahaul kharab hai… akele mat nikla karo. (Bad times have befallen us, do not venture out alone with cows).” Was this is a caution or a threat? I wondered. This was the most humiliating experience of my life. My clothes torn, my face black, I walked on the road alone, but I still had my companion, Gauri, following me. She was helpless and a mute witness to my humiliation. My wife passed away 20 years ago. And in all these years, I have lived a life of isolation with no one to accompany me but my cattle. I had dedicated my life to my cows and look at the irony… I was humiliated for a cause that our chief minister, Yogi Adityanath has taken up with gusto — cow protection. An FIR has been registered and some of the ‘vigilantes’ have been arrested. But I still have one question for Yogiji. Is it a crime to serve cows? By cow protection, does he mean to punish people who have dedicated all their lives to serve cows? I know I will never get an answer.  ]]>

Five points to understand SC-Dalits confrontation

1. Flashpoint: The SC judgement that sparked off protests On March 20, the Supreme Court banned automatic arrests following registration of a criminal case under the SC/ST Act. The apex court order mandated an inquiry by police before the arrests. It said the preliminary inquiry under the Act would be conducted by the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police officer to be certain that the allegations are not superficial. Earlier provisions in the Act provided for taking immediate action in respect of any complaint relating to “harassment of a victim, informant or witness”. Any such complaint shall be tried separately from the main case and be concluded within two months. In an extension to its order, the apex court also said that public servants cannot be prosecuted without the approval of their appointing authority. The court said the amendment in the law was a bid to protect honest public servants discharging bona fide duties from being blackmailed with false cases under the Act. Several organisations felt this was an “institutional dilution” of the SC/ST Act provisions that safeguarded the rights of the marginalised sections. 2. Violence: When widespread protests went out of control As criticism of the Supreme Court judgement grew, many political and social groups called for a Bharat Bandh against the decision and on March 2, Dalit protesters clashed with police in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha — states where normal life was paralysed in varying degrees amid incidences of violence and arson. Ten lives were lost, scores injured and public property was damaged. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, two BJP-ruled states were the worst affected and the central government was forced to rush 800 anti-riot policemen to the two violence-hit states. Clashes turned deadly in Madhya Pradesh where six persons were killed and dozens injured, forcing officials to impose curfew in Morena, Gwalior and Bhind districts. Protests were also held Bhopal as agitators blocked roads in the state capital. Meanwhile, the government in a bid to douse anti-Dalit charge against the ruling dispensation said that it has filed a petition in the apex court seeking a review of its March 20 order. 3. Vested interest: Did divisive forces misread SC judgement? During its hearing on the review petition, on April 4, the Supreme Court declined to stay its March 20 order and asserted that it wanted to protect innocent people from being punished. It said the accusations of dilution of the SC/ST Act were misplaced and their directions were aimed at protecting the innocent people from being persecuted. “People who are agitating have not read the order. There is a lot of hearsay,” observed Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel of the two-judge Bench. “Vested interests are also involved some time,” he added. When the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, arguing for a review of SC earlier order, said that there is a tremendous amount of deprivation, discontent and agitation in SC/ST community who had been oppressed for thousands of years, amicus curiae Amarendra Sharan pointed out that Article 14 (Equality before law) and Article 21 formed the core of the Constitution, arguing that “protection of a person under Article 21 is paramount”. There is abuse of law not just by the SC/ST members, but by police, someone else or by some vested interest or purpose, he said. Several BJP leaders were quick to point out that the agitations were fueled by misinformation campaign by anti-NDA forces to malign the Centre. 4. Counter violence: Upper castes hit back with vengeance It didn’t take long for the upper castes groups to hit back, particularly in the states where the BJP is in power. Clashes broke out in Hindaun city in Rajasthan’s Kairali district on March 3, demanding action against those involved in looting and vandalism by Dalit groups during the Bharat Bandh, police said. A mob reportedly belonging to upper castes torched the house of Dalit leaders including BJP legislator Rajkumari Jatav and former minister Bharosilal Jatav of the Congress. Curfew was imposed in the city and over 40 people arrested. In Madhya Pradesh, where there were unverified reports of clashes between upper and lower caste groups, curfew continued in various parts of Gwalior, Bhind and Morena districts amid reports of sporadic violence and tension, despite the heavy police deployment and the arrival of central paramilitary forces. 5. Way Ahead: Whatever happened to law & order agencies While the ruling dispensation has blamed Opposition parties for fomenting trouble across north India, considered a forte of the BJP and its allies, the rival political parties led by the Congress have targeted the BJP for its inabilities in controlling the violence in the states ruled by their party. Clearly, law and order is a state subject, under the Constitution, and the BJP or NDA-ruled states have seen largescale violence. Analysts say protests and sate repression against them may remain the trend in the run up to the General Elections due to be held in early 2019. The reason for this is: while the saffron party would want polarisation of voters on religious lines because of its poor record on the promised Vikas (development) to stay in power, the opposition groups will unite to oppose such an eventuality. The party in power believes that stimulating caste divisions by opposition among its core vote-base is part of the plan. But the question remains if the powers-that-be know of the “divisive” plans of the Opposition, what has it done to counter the “eventuality”? LokMarg]]>

ACID ATTACK HANGING JUDGE SHOULD ALSO HAVE HAULED COMMISSIONERS

Supreme Court gave a directive on 6th February 2013 ordering the Home Ministry and the Ministry of Chemical and Fertiliser to regulate the sale of acid. Every sale of acid has to be registered, the ID of the buyer checked and the purpose of use has to be registered. It cannot be sold over the counter. It cannot be sold to anyone under 18. Yet. Most of the attackers are emotionally charged young men unable to control their anger. A jilted young man is less concerned about the consequences such as death sentence than the injury he can inflict upon a girl. It is only after passions cool down that the fear of jail or death disturbs the mind. By that time it is too late. Besides, death sentences and long imprisonments have not proved to be the most effective deterrents in heinous crimes. Much more effective is change of attitudes in society and restricting the access to instruments that harm. One only has to look at America. Life and death sentences have not reduced gun crime in USA. People continue to kill each other over small issues. And some disturbed people continue to take a machine gun and mow down children in schools etc. Access to guns is too easy in America. Countries where guns are not available to the public except in exceptional circumstances do not have so many deaths on the street by other civilians. Similarly, if Acid is going to be freely available and Indian youth has not yet become accustomed to women jilting them, death sentences are not going to reduce acid attacks. A social problem in acid attacks that our educationalists will need to address is the issue of pre marital relationships. It is only a decade or two that Indian society has begun to come out of a rigid social order of arranged marriages to choosing one’s own partner. This is becoming popular. Moreover many young people are influenced by Bollywood portrayal of man chasing woman or vice versa. So these young people start courtships at young age. But what many men are not used to is the idea of women making their own choices. Many young men become enraged if they are jilted or a relationship breaks down. Their parents lived in another world and are hardly the pillars of support when this happens in contemporary society. [caption id="attachment_3282" align="aligncenter" width="641"] Acid attack victim Preeti Rathi[/caption] There is no one to counsel a bad tempered, emotionally charged, avenge seeking young man who thinks his pride has been affected or he simply cannot contemplate the idea of his ex girlfriend walking away from him. Some are so emotionaly disturbed that they would rather disfigure the ex than see her marrying some one else. Relatives are usually useless in this situation as Indian society is still transiting to a new cultural position. It is the need of the time that educationalists introduce the issue of relationships into the agenda and there are people available for counselling after broken relationships. This is preventative action that will work a lot more than death sentences. Death sentences are popular to cleanse society of its own emotions in these cases but achieve little. However the bigger fault lies with enforcement agencies who have failed to apply the law regulating acid sales. The ruling by the Supreme Court on regularising acid cannot be clearer. On 6th August 2013, the Minister of State at the Home Ministry, Shri R. P. N Singh reiterated the details of the directive in Parliament and said that all the direction of the SC are being followed! So why still sale of Acid! Acid is cheaper than other cleaning products so people buy it to clean toilets, remove stains from floors and other areas. The fact is that shopkeepers are generally unaware that sale of acid for non industrial use is prohibited and highly regulated. They ask, ‘why is it so easily available if it is prohibited?’ Shoppers too do not know that it is illegal to buy acid for simple household use. Acid is dangerous. It has to be handled with caution. So while the judge handed down the deaths sentence which is unlikely to stop many potential acid attackers in the midst of emotional meltdown, the judge should also have hauled over the Chief of Police and the Chief Commissioner to set an example. The incident happened in May 2013 so it may be difficult to hold the Commissioners culpable of negligence. Rathi died in June 2013. Relatives clashed with the police at the cremation. People do feel the authorities have a lot to answer. The Commissioners should have been summoned and asked to provide a report within a short period, say 6 weeks, to show evidence that SC directive has been implemented and the State has at least done its bit to reduce these attacks. NGOs should have been given the freedom to report otherwise and bring evidence to court if Acid is still freely available. [caption id="attachment_3280" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Relatives of acid attack victim, Preeti Rathi clash with police during her cremation at Narela , New Delhi[/caption] In India, it is not punishment of the criminal that works best, but the potential effect on careers of officials that gets the system to function within the law. // ]]>