Enough Is Enough: Modi Must Reign in India’s Cow Vigilantes

“The third world war will start over a cow.”

Thus spoke godman Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri, the chairman of the executive council of the cow rearing and livestock promotion board (Gaupalan Evam Pashudhan Samvardhan Board) of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradhesh.

If anybody thought he was joking, an army is already underway, beating up men and women, parading victims like trophies. They’re busy raiding refrigerators and sifting through biryanis, pausing to rape and sodomize, and, in some cases even kill, the beef-eaters.

They are the Gau Rakshaks, or cow protectors—a new breed of warriors tasked to eliminate all threats to the sacred cow and help make India a proud Hindu nation.

The consumption of beef has been illegal in most of India for varying lengths of time now. Not just the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), political parties of all hues have tried to pander to the sentiments of the majority Hindu voters by restricting the consumption of the meat. In 20 of the 29 states, beef cannot be consumed and there are some kind of restrictions on the slaughter of cows and buffaloes.

In fact, the war on beef is not new in that sense and neither are the warriors: some cow vigilante groups in Haryana date back to more than 20 years ago. It is just that in the past two years India has seen a Hindu nationalist government at the center; the vigilantes have become a force to reckon with. They have proliferated and their activities increased manifold.

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