The Big Story: Supporting the mob

On Tuesday, as the country saw yet another man lynched by cow vigilantes, the Union Home Minister trotted out a curious defence. Arguing that such attacks were “not new”, Rajnath Singh claimed, “Lynching episodes did not start recently and have been going on for years. The biggest mob lynching case happened in 1984.”

Positing 1984 as a counterpoint to almost any attack that has occured under Bharatiya Janata Party rule is not new. The massacre of Sikhs that occured during the Congress regime after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was previously invoked to justify the 2002 Gujarat riots. It is now being used to downplay outrage over the lynchings by gau rakshaks in states like Rajasthan and Jharkhand.

The 1984 riots have little bearing on the lynchings of mostly Muslim cattle traders and dairy farmers accused by mobs of being cattle smugglers. This particular kind of violence is something for which the BJP bears specific responsibility. Before 2014, cow vigilante killings were largely unknown. As a study of bovine-related attacks between 2010 and 2017, IndiaSpend noted, “97% of these attacks were reported after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power in May 2014, and half the cow-related violence – 30 of 60 cases – were from states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party”.

Rajnath Singh was replying to the debate around the brutal assault of a Muslim dairy farmer in Rajasthan by gau rakshaks on Friday. The police took three-hours to take the man to hospital, where he was admitted dead on arrival. Before getting him medical treatment, the police decided to ensure that the cows he was herding were taken to an animal shelter and stopped for a tea break. The incident illustrated the deep connection between gau rakshak gangs and the police in many states – a connection that the ruling BJP has done little to break.

On Tuesday, a Rajasthan minister justified the murder, asking Muslims to to “stop consuming beef’’ and “keep away from cow smugglers to respect the Hindus”. On the same day, another senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader echoed this line, saying that the killings would stop only when people stopped eating beef.

Earlier this month, a Union minister went so far as to garland eight men convicted of lynching a cattle trader from Jharkhand. In June, a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Jharkhand offered to pay the legal fees of four men accused of participating in a lynching.

For such lawlessness to be facilitated by the ruling party in such an open manner does not bode well for India.


  • In the Indian Express, Arvind Subramanian lists out his parting reflections as the Chief Economic Advisor to the Modi government.
  • In the Mint, Rahul Matthan flags a creeping expansion of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
  • Imran Khan is only a player in the circus run by Pakistan’s military, writes Fatima Bhutto in the Guardian.


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