The Not In My Name campaign started on Facebook by Gurugram based film maker Saba Dewan against the act of cow vigilantism or gau raksha is certainly becoming a bigger affair with each passing day. The campaign has successfully spread not only in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Allahabad, Lucknow, Kochi and others but also across the borders with people out in the streets of USA, holding placards high up in the air with “Not in anyone’s name” and “Shed hate not blood” scribbled on them. The Alliance of Justice and Accountability organised the demonstrations against the ongoing violence in India in the name of protection of cows in July this year. Similar protests also took place in London.
The campaign is being joined by more and more people everyday and now, 114 armed forces veterans have come out in support of the movement by writing an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to take action against the startling number of crimes that are being committed in the name of cow vigilantism. In the letter, the veterans have urged the government to take steps against these recent incidents of killing of innocent Muslims by “self appointed protectors of Hinduism”. They have strongly condemned the relentless acts of vigilantism and mentioned in the letter that these acts defy what the armed forces and the Constitution of India stand for. Thus, they have asked the government to take suitable measures to uphold “unity in diversity” and the other values enshrined in the Constitution.
While it’s clear that the initiative of the Not In My Name campaign was triggered by the mob lynching incident of 15-year-old Junaid Khan in Ballabgarh, Haryana on the basis of mere suspicion that he was carrying cow meat, and other past lynching cases such as that of Pehlu Khan in Alwar, Rajasthan when he was wrongly suspected to be a cow meat smuggler; it is definitely not clear that what led certain factions like the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and Bhartiya Gau Raksha Dal (BGRD) to take single-handed charge of safeguarding the values of Hindutva by resorting to violence against Muslims and other minorities. RSS Chief Mohan Bhagat’s statement of banning cow slaughter just a few days after Pehlu Khan succumbed to his injuries, definitely had a void since he never spoke on taking suitable measures to stop these killings. The government has reacted to these events but not very significantly. PM Modi wasn’t quick to respond on the matter. However, on facing consistent pressure from media and the rising popularity of the campaign, Mr. Modi gave a rather stern reaction during his visit to Ahmedabad by saying, “Killing people in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ is not acceptable. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve.”
Behind the veil of protection of cows, lies the growing intolerance against minorities since what can be seen out in the open are only unprecedented acts of vandalism against innocents. Pawan Pandit, Chairman of BGRD said, “We are not anti-Muslim or anti-Dalit. We are a fraternity which wants to save the cow, because she is our mother… because that is what my religion, my parents, my holy book, taught me.” From this statement arise three questions: Is “cow protection” the only focal point when it comes to being in accordance with the values of the Hindu religion? If so, then what about the cows that roam on the roads and streets randomly that get killed everyday by cars in road accidents due to irresponsible cattlemen who own them?; Why are innocent people, just on the basis of baseless assumptions of cow slaughter being lynched?; Why is the centre so keen on enforcing and amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 only for the prevention of cows and not for other animals? And lastly, why is religion even becoming the ground for protecting cows? Now, it’s for the government to find the answers to these questions and for us to see whether the right wins or the wrong.