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Rohit Dhankar

This morning there was a news item that Haryana Police has killed a cattle smuggler who was smuggling cows. It is perhaps the fourth cow related death in last 2-3 months. By the afternoon there is a news of mob attacks on a newspaper who dared to publish a cartoon with a piggybank featuring in it.

Haryana has recently enacted a law that bans cow slaughter and smuggling to other states. The constitution of India mentions in a directive principle that cattle, including cows and calf, should be protected. There is a high octave campaign from some Hindu organizations to make cow a symbol that could be used to help arouse emotions and foment trouble. Hindus at the moment lack a symbol which can be used to raise cries of ‘hurt feelings’ and is capable of creating a rage across the community. They have tried Ram. Currently are trying cow and Bharat mata. Where there are no laws to protect such symbols they want to enact such laws. Where there are laws—respect for national flag and anthem, ban on cow slaughter—they are trying to act as vigilante and trying to take the law in their own hands. So far the fundamentalist organizations among the Hindu community are in a minority and face a lot of criticism from the intellectuals in the country, both Hindus and Muslims.

In this regard the liberal people in the country—all, without any regard of religions—should strongly condemn the vigilante attitude of some Hindu groups. Where the law is broken—for example, not sanding for national anthem, if there is actually such a law—people should inform the police and the tendency to act as the judge, jury and hangman should be strictly curbed. The liberals should also start a campaign against removing ‘cow and calf’ from the directive principles; and work against the laws banning cow slaughter. This has to be done without painting the whole nation and the whole Hindu community as intolerant or bigoted.

The Muslim mob has attacked Lokmat office, burnt copies of the paper and is protesting against an article that criticizes ISIS and carries a cartoon with a picture of a piggy-bank. It is construed as blasphemy and insult to Islam. This is the cartoon:

Piggy-Bank

One wonders what is offensive about this cartoon. Why is it considered blasphemous? The Muslim community (Islam) does have the symbols which could be used for arousing emotions and anger. Allah, Muhammad, Quran, and any association with a pig can be easily used to arouse Muslim mass rage. Though the actual fundamentalists in the Muslim community are also in a minority at the moment. But their capability to foment trouble is much greater. Something as simple as naming a character in a piece of fiction as Muhammad has been used in India for wide spread riots.

The liberals have been almost always soft on such attacks on freedom of expression coming from Muslim groups. They do not seem to realize that rubble rousing Hindu groups are very jealous of the fact that Muslim groups have rallying symbols that can be used to agitate the whole community while the Hindu groups don’t. They want to create such symbols. The liberals also don’t seem to realize that being soft on bigotry of Muslim groups, the kind shown in the Lokmat incident, will make the Hindu hardliners take even more intolerant stances. This will also create a favorable feeling for the fringe groups in the larger community.

Following the massive protest, the editor of the Lokmat later extended an immediate apology for the cartoon and assured that action will be taken against those responsible for the publication of the particular cartoon.” This shows the power of Islamic fundamentalism and fear created by it. As long as we want to speak openly about intolerance of Bajarang Dal, VHP and BJP but capitulate on the first sign of Muslim anger we will not be able to curb intolerance.

Curtailment of freedom of expression, be that for the feigned love of cow or hatred for pig, has to be equally criticised. Both groups need to be kept under control.

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