Will the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s command or request to the State Governments to “crack down” on cow vigilantes have any impact? Or is he responding to a notice sent to the State of U.P. and possibly Centre as well to let it know about all the breaches of law and order in the past five years until now? Where does the Centre stand on this in view of public interest litigation before the Court? The litigation came up before the Court prior to its summer vacation.
The cow vigilantes attack or kill those who transport cows from one place to another point within that State. Does it matter that it could be a case of transporting a cow from one State to another in the neighbourhood? Would those people who consider themselves self-appointed cow protectors or saviours of the Mother Cow, two words Mr. Modi does not tire of using, remind the Prime Minister of his eternal reverence for the cow, especially since his days in Gujarat? Would a lot of people in India be entitled to believe that Mr. Modi spoke about the breakdown of law and order by cow vigilantes after he possibly heard 20 or more heads of government and heads of State during his 10 days of his most recent world tour as they might have expressed their surprise that beef was such a sensitive issue in India. Incidentally, China has just lifted a ban on the import of American beef.
Was it not surprising to notice that the White House working dinner for Mr. Modi and President Trump was held in a relatively narrow dining hall with two narrow tables dividing the Indian and American delegations? It was not a single wide table. Was Mr. Modi’s Gujarati fare cooked by his own chefs or cooks, purely vegetarian, whereas Mr. Trump and his own American guests took their usual non-vegetarian food? Was customary wine or champagne omitted as were toasts to one another’s good health?
Yet the Union Government has promulgated a Presidential Ordinance several weeks ago; it lays down that anyone slaughtering a cow could be sentenced to life imprisonment. Has the Union Government issued the ordinance at the behest of hot-heads like Yogi Adityanath, the new-born Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh?
Other Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States may not be as enthusiastic about protection of the cow as the Yogi, but helpless nevertheless as far as the antics of the cow vigilantes go, as they are bringing a bad name to the glory of India, which boasts of its democratic institutions.
Does the Yogi think, believe or consider that he is as powerful in his State as the Prime Minister is in handling international relations? Would he be right or totally incorrect if he insists that law and order is purely a State subject under the Constitution and neither the Union Home Minister nor the Prime Minister could issue any directive to him since he enjoys two-thirds majority in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly where the BJP won a landslide victory only in April this year?
Right or wrong, would the Yogi be laughing in his sleeves ~ but he wears no sleeves; he wears only a saffron robe, not tailored, in the north Indian style ~ if he is secretly or openly wondering whether the Prime Minister or his Home Minister would be able to convert the Presidential Ordinance on cow protection into a law, approved by both Houses of Parliament during the current Monsoon Session of Parliament.
The ordinance is not a Money Bill and has to be approved by the Rajya Sabha where the BJP and NDA are in a minority and will not be in control for a year or two to come. If not enacted by Parliament within six months or in the first available session, does the cow ordinance lapse automatically? Or does the Union Government ask the new President to sign a new ordinance for use until the Winter Session of Parliament in November this year? Is there any constitutional sanction to keep issuing ordinances beyond two of them at the most?
Does that entitle an ebullient Yogi Adityanath to tell the Centre to forget about enforcing law and order in his State and let him take care of the cow vigilantes, who, to his way of thinking, the Central ordinance seeks to protect and do as they please? A judge has commented that while a man killing someone in a road accident might be convicted of rash and negligent driving and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment or, at the most, for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, if it is proved to be a wilful and deadly rash driving. But the killer of a cow could be sentenced to life imprisonment of 10 to 14 years’ imprisonment, if good behaviour in jail reduces the sentence.
The BJP appears to have been immensely pleased about winning the support of the Bihar Chief Minister, Mr. Nitish Kumar, for its candidate for the office of President, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, for his credentials as a Dalit leader and a cordial relationship between the two as Chief Minister and Governor of Bihar until recently.
Does that mean that Mr. Nitish Kumar is about to lose the support of the RJD led by Lalu Prasad Yadav and sons, besides the Congress? Does that mean that Mr. Nitish Kumar, with 71 MLAs, is about to accept the support of 57 odd BJP legislators to run a coalition with a wafer thin majority in a House of 243 members of Bihar Assembly? Would that mean that a common minimum programme would be discussed between the BJP and the JDU?
Or would Mr. Nitish Kumar rather prefer to dissolve the legislature and advise the Governor to go in for President’s Rule in Bihar? Does Mr. Nitish Kumar think that enough is enough, be it an alliance with the RJD or the NDA or just the BJP as crutches for sheer survival, which may be pointless in a beefless era for poor Dalits? To hell with the forgettable Mahagathbandhan or the great alliance as well. (Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues) [IFS]