Cow protection laws may be justified on religious grounds. But the provision of stringent punishments in BJP-ruled states clearly points to the communal dimension. This is starkly evident in the case of BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. Under its new law, a humble head constable upwards, “or any person authorised by a competent authority”, has the power to enter, inspect and search any premises “where he has reason to believe that an offence has been, is being, or is likely to be committed and take necessary action”.
Is likely to be committed? You do not need a particularly fertile imagination to recognise the numerous possibilities in this draconian and insidious provision to harass, intimidate, implicate, detain, arrest or prosecute a targeted section of citizens. In a state where as often as not the police function as the private militia of the Saffron Brotherhood, who is to determine, and on what basis, whether a chunk of meat stored in the fridge or simmering on the burner comes from a buffalo (not prohibited) or from a cow or its progeny?
Who knew that a rare steak could be so contentious? Just look across the country to West Bengal, where the illegal transport of cow carcasses into Bangladesh is one of the major reasons that soldiers along the border shoot to kill, according to this week's billboard piece from by Bangladesh-to-Bangkok buddy Maher Sattar.
But in Madhya Pradesh the beef ban -- or the trend it signals -- could wind up being just as deadly. According to Anand, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is slowly turning the state apparatus into an informal wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) -- a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group frequently associated with anti-Muslim activities.
Chouhan publicly enjoins government employees to take an active part in RSS activities; several government schemes are named after Hindu rituals and ceremonies; the Bhopal police chief issued a “secret” circular to all police stations in 2010, directing them to collect all kind of information from Christian institutions under their jurisdiction.