On Wednesday, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that the BJP-led State Government is going to form a “cow cabinet” for the protection of the cows in the state.
Chouhan Announced on Twitter:
प्रदेश में गोधन संरक्षण व संवर्धन के लिए 'गौकैबिनेट' गठित करने का निर्णय लिया गया है।— Shivraj Singh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) November 18, 2020
पशुपालन, वन, पंचायत व ग्रामीण विकास, राजस्व, गृह और किसान कल्याण विभाग गौ कैबिनेट में शामिल होंगे।
पहली बैठक 22 नवंबर को गोपाष्टमी पर दोपहर 12 बजे गौ अभ्यारण, आगर मालवा में आयोजित की जाएगी।
We have decided to set up a ‘cabinet’ for the protection and promotion of cattle in the state.Animal Husbandry, Forest, Panchayat and Rural Development, Revenue, Home and Farmers Welfare Department will be included in the Cow Cabinet.The first meeting will be held on November 22 at 12 noon on Gopashtami at Gau Sanctuary, Agar Malwa.
PTI reported that notwithstanding Chouhan, the cabinet will include Home Minister Narottam Mishra, Panchayat, Rural Development Minister Mahendra Singh Sisodia, Forest Minister Vijay Shah, Minister for Animal Husbandry Prem Singh Patel and Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel.
They will create an action plan to increase the use of cow dung cakes. They will also encourage the making and marketing of cow products as a whole, such as cow-wood and milk.
Cow Vigilantism in the name of Ministry?
In recent years in India, there has been a spate of killings through mob attacks in the name of cow protection by cow vigilante groups. According to a Reuters report, a total of 63 cow vigilante attacks had occurred in India between 2010 and mid-2017, mostly since the Modi government came to power in 2014. In these attacks between 2010 and June 2017, “28 Indians – 24 of them Muslims – were killed and 124 injured“. The surge is attributed to the recent rise in Hindu nationalism in India. Many vigilante groups say they feel “empowered” by the victory of the Hindu nationalist BJP in the 2014 election.
The new cabinet will be a continuation of BJP’s efforts to promote cow vigilantism and aggressive nationalism. It promotes the dangerous idea that “cow protection” is essential to Indian nationalism. The idea of “cow protection” or “cow as mother” is used to target Muslims and Dalits who engage in the work of carrying the dead cattle, leather tanning and eat beef.
In the present day, this narrative has disenfranchised many beef-eating communities and created an idea that butchers are “polluted” or “dirty”. Because “cow protection” is also a part of hegemonic nationalism it also has rendered many communities as non-citizens. It has also encouraged violent mob lynching of Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims and communities associated with beef-eating, regardless of whether or not they eat beef or are butchers. Dalits and Muslims who make up the majority of the cattle skinners in India’s 12 billion dollar leather industry are some of the workers whose occupations made further dangerous by this narrative.
Love Jihad Bill
Recently, the Madhya Pradesh Government also introduced a deeply casteist and Islamophobic law that attacks inter-faith and inter-caste marriages. The law would make marriage for the purpose of “forcible conversion” into a cognizable offense with a punishment of up to 5 years of jail time. They also plan to make a provision which will bar women from SC/ST backgrounds from availing structural benefits such as affirmative action or redressal mechanisms if she marries a Muslim man.
Love jihad is typically a term used to describe interfaith marriages or relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women, though in some states such as Tamil Nadu it is also used to describe inter-caste marriages with Dalit men. This is based in the anxiety that these men will disrupt the endogamous Hindu caste system by “stealing women”. The term “Love Jihad” is not legally defined and is against the constitutional value of the Right to Marry under Article 21 (Right to Life).
Combined, the “Cow Cabinet” and “Love Jihad” bill encourages the most prominent anxiety against Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims: that these communities are a threat to the Dwij-Savarna Hindu woman and by extent Hindu nationalism.
Opposition’s Response to cow protection
Instead of responding to the dangers of these two announcements, the Congress criticised the BJP for having forgotten its election promise of creating a separate cow ministry. This criticism is contrary to their claim of being a “secular” party; the Congress repeatedly criticizes the BJP’s Hindu nationalism despite partaking in it themselves.