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BJP’s Cow Vigilantes Used Communal Rhetoric To Target Muslims, Dalits: Human Rights Watch

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report accused members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of using communal rhetoric ‘to spur a violent vigilante campaign against consumption of beef and those engaged in the cattle trade.’

The report titled ‘Violent Cow Protection in India: Vigilante Groups Attack Minorities’ mentioned that in some cases, political leaders of Hindu nationalist groups, including elected BJP officials, defended the assaults against those accused of possessing or consuming beef.

For example, in a 2018 incident in Uttar Pradesh where a police officer and another person were killed by cow vigilantes, the chief minister Yogi Adityanath and member of BJP, termed the incident as “accident”, the report cited. The CM then went on to warn that “illegal slaughtering, and not just cow slaughter, is banned in the entire state.”

The report also cited the New Delhi Television, reporting that there has been a 500 increase in use of communal divisive language by elected representatives between 2014 and 2018. 90% of the leaders using such language were said to be from the BJP.

HRW added that between May 2015 and December 2018, 44 people (including 36 Muslims) have been killed across 12 states of India in attacks led by militant Hindu groups that often have ties with the ruling BJP.

“Many Hindus consider cows to be sacred and these groups have mushroomed all over the country. Their victims are largely Muslim or from Dalit (formerly known as ‘untouchables’) and Adivasi (indigenous) communities,” the report said.

The report details 11 cases in which 14 people were killed in 4 states of India, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkand. These states were also said to be those where most of the cases of violence over beef consumption occurred.

Between May 2015 and December 2018, 44 people (including 36 Muslims) have been killed across 12 states of India over beef consumption.

Moreover, it was said that victims or families of the victims could file cases with support of lawyers and activists but then had to withdraw due to pressure and fear of retribution.

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The role of police was also deemed unsatisfactory. It was said that “the police initially stalled investigations, ignored procedures, or even played a complicit role in the killings and cover-up of crimes.”

Cow slaughter is forbidden in most parts of Hindu-majority India. However, over the last few decades, Hindu nationalists have led a political campaign complaining that the authorities do not do enough to enforce the ban and stop cattle smuggling.

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