CONGRESS AND COW

The Mad­hya Pradesh govern­ment’s use of the NSA for cat­tle of­fences is out of line

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE -

The de­ten­tion of five peo­ple un­der the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Act in Mad­hya Pradesh last week, all of them al­leged to have com­mit­ted of­fences re­lated to cat­tle laws, amounts to gross mis­use of a law meant solely to pre­vent ac­tiv­i­ties that en­dan­ger the coun­try’s se­cu­rity or pub­lic or­der. In­dia has un­for­tu­nately be­come ha­bit­u­ated to the abuse of pre­ven­tive de­ten­tion laws. In re­cent times, they have been wrongly in­voked against po­lit­i­cal dis­senters and vo­cal crit­ics, with to­tal dis­re­gard for con­sti­tu­tional free­doms. The lat­est in­stances point to a new form of mis­use. This is pos­si­bly the first time that a law that pro­vides for a max­i­mum of one year in prison through an ex­ec­u­tive or­der with­out trial or bail is be­ing used against those sus­pected of of­fences against cows. The im­pli­ca­tions are ter­ri­fy­ing. It means that law-en­forcers will stop at noth­ing to demon­strate ide­o­log­i­cal ad­her­ence to ma­jori­tar­ian be­liefs. This poses a grave dan­ger to the free­dom of move­ment and vo­ca­tion, as well as the di­etary choices, of sec­tions of so­ci­ety that do not share the ma­jor­ity com­mu­nity’s rev­er­ence for the cow. In the first case in Khandwa dis­trict, the po­lice, who re­cov­ered a cow car­cass, traced three men who had al­legedly killed the an­i­mal. In the sec­ond case, au­thor­i­ties in Agar Malwa dis­trict claim there was some dis­tur­bance due to two men who were al­legedly trans­port­ing cows. The os­ten­si­ble rea­son to book them un­der the NSA is that they were likely to cause dis­rup­tion of peace. This is too flimsy a ground to in­voke so strin­gent a law, es­pe­cially when there is no ev­i­dence of se­cu­rity or or­der be­ing un­der grave threat. In its or­der last year di­rect­ing a series of mea­sures against mob vi­o­lence and pub­lic lynch­ing, of which those trans­port­ing cows were fre­quent vic­tims, the Supreme Court had warned against the dan­gers of a so­ciopo­lit­i­cal frame­work based on dis­re­spect for an in­clu­sive so­cial or­der, and wanted the state to take pre­ven­tive and re­me­dial mea­sures. In its ap­par­ent ea­ger­ness to pre­vent in­ci­dents that may lead to a com­mu­nal back­lash, the Mad­hya Pradesh govern­ment is de­tain­ing po­ten­tial vic­tims to pre­vent them from in­dulging in provoca­tive acts! In in­vok­ing the NSA in re­spect of mi­nor of­fences, solely out of fear of ag­gres­sive protests by right-wing Hindu groups, the Congress regime in Mad­hya Pradesh is dis­play­ing ut­ter craven­ness. It is not clear why the po­lice is not con­tent with pros­e­cut­ing them un­der laws that ban cow slaugh­ter. There is some un­ease among Congress lead­ers over these ac­tions of the party’s new govern­ment in the State. How­ever, it is not enough for the party to voice mild dis­ap­proval of the Ka­mal Nath regime’s ac­tions: its lead­er­ship has to de­nounce the gross mis­use of the law to mol­lify cow vig­i­lantes and the short-sighted aim of neu­tral­is­ing the BJP’s cam­paign that the Congress is against Hindu be­liefs. The State govern­ment must re­voke the de­ten­tion.

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