“I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion that is to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to by wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another” remarked the Mahatma of this Nation, which has now become a distant dream for the majority of peace loving, ‘not in my name’ citizens. The spate of attacks under the banner of protecting cattle, began on Septemeber 28, 2015 when Mohammed Akhlaq of Dadri, was beaten up and lynched by his own village men, for the ‘offence’ of storing beef in his house. Beginning from Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan in Alwar, to the spine chilling murder of a 17-year-old boy, Junaid Khan, in broad day light, aboard the Mathura bound train, had soured the Eid celebrations around the country into a gloomy and a colourless affair. The above instances are those which have been reported, and had attracted wide-spread condemnation, but the violence is still burgeoning at nook and corners of our country, stemming from social media messages to ‘rhetoric’ hate speeches, which now, has become like a toxic phenomenon that is being brewed in the air, filling our spaces. The Constitutional rights, namely the Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Art 21, and freedom of religion under the Art.25, have been thrown to the wind, by the fringe and ‘sanctimonious’ right wing elements, which are at large, and have become rife in the very communities where we live. Not only Muslims or Dalits for that case are being mobbed and lynched in the name of ‘beef eaters’, but also the life of caste Hindus is at stake, as there had been scattered incidents were dairy farmers and cattle traders were looted and savaged by the ‘gau rakshaks’, which apparently shows that, these mob seldom finds a difference between a Hindu or a Muslim, as their ultimate endeavour is to trample anybody who is in the vicinity transporting cattle, which reminds the rampage and threat faced by Afro-Americans in USA, in the time of White Supremacist ‘Ku Klux Klan’. A comprehensive date provided by Indiaspend website, puts the rate of mob lynching and cow vigilantism crimes at 97% , ever since the Narendra Modi Govt. took charge in 2014, with nearly 86% of them being targeted on Muslims.
CATTLE TRADE REGULATION RULES- A PIPE DREAM:
The prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017, an enactment made under the existing Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, seeks to put in place a rigid and preposterous regulations with regard to the trade of cattle and slaughtering it for food. In view of this regulation, cattle markets and farmers who come regularly for trading in animals at cattle markets, have been at the receiving end, going penniless without any yield from the cattle they own. In addition to this, leather markets are also witnessing a low-down in the export business which has forced the traders associated with cattle related business to look up for alternative jobs. As the cattle trade rules have taken a toll on the livelihood of farmers and leather traders, respite came only when the matter was taken up to the Supreme Court, when it had disposed of a petition filed by Mohammed Abdul Faheem Qureshi, president of Hyderabad-based all India Jamiatul Quresh action committee, challenging the constitutional validity of 'prevention of cruelty to animals (regulation of livestock markets) rules, 2017’, issued under the prevention of cruelty to animals act, 1960. On July 11, the Supreme Court had passed an order of stay until the cattle trade rules are notified in the states, and further, it had upheld the 30th May, order passed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, to stay the implementation of rules across the country. Firstly, the Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, grossly impinges upon the Fundamental Right under Article 19(1)(g) with regard to carrying on any business or trade, Article 25 which ensures each and every citizen his/her freedom of Religion, and secondly Article 29, that directs the State to protect the interest of minorities. Our founding fathers and the drafters of the constitution have exercised utmost caution, and due diligence, in setting out the fundamental rights with regard to religion and the freedom of choosing one’s food, as rights that complement each other. It had very much occurred to the drafters of the Constitution that, in future, havoc will be wreaked in the name of protecting animals, and that is why the scheme of protecting animal husbandry has been carefully brought under the Part IV of the Constitution, namely the Directive Principles of State Policy, and not under the Fundamental Rights Part.
A MATTER OF RIGHT AND CHOICE:
It goes without saying that, freedom of religion includes freedom to eat food of a person’s choice, unless it is barred under the law for the time being in force. With the Bill being tabled for bringing to book the cow vigilantes and curb lynching by mobs, the rate of violence being perpetrated in the name of guardians of cow is soaring up, for which the right-wing ideologists and jingoistic elements are to be blamed for inciting chaos in the pluralistic communities in India. The long cherished dream of establishing a multi-cultural society by the forerunners who had laid down the touchstone for bringing up Indians as one nation, irrespective of the diversity and classifications in language, culture, tradition, ethnicity, and the existence of both majorities and minorities without undermining or placing one below the other, has so far proved that, our country to be an epitome of co-existence in respect of harmony in pluralism, except for certain unsavoury incidents, that has paved way for the recent inroads. In the wake of these seething attacks and lynching, the spar over the responsibility continues to rock the parliament as to whether the Central Govt. or the State Govts. is to handle the law and order situation arising out of the mayhem perpetrated by the 'Gau Rakshaks'. Adding fuel to the fire, every now and then, hateful and infuriating speeches sabotaging the secular fabric of the society is happening, to cite, a clarion call was recently issued by Hindu Janajagruti Samiti to declare cow as the National animal. The blame game in politics always finds a place in the books of any political party, and this issue is no exception. With very few being brought to Justice, in the cases of lynching and ‘cow vigilantism’, the functioning of various governments under whose nose the attacks are taking place, remains under a cloud, as to whether the lynchers are being harbored. In so far as the message of Prime Minister with regard to Cow Vigilantism is concerned, the voice doesn't sound to be stern enough even to send a string message admonishing the ‘gau rakshaks’, unlike his stand in wiping away corruption and unaccounted money, so as to assure the peace-loving citizens an iron hand policy to bring down mob lynching and street justice in the name of cow vigilantism. Only knocking at the doors of Judiciary has turned out to be the hope to preserve the trade mark of pluralism, and hopefully the Apex Court as it had done in the past, becomes a saviour to redeem the society from this pandemonium.