In the last few years, core issues that plague India have been made to cede much of the political space that they ought to rightfully occupy. That space is now occupied by the cow and commentaries about how its protection is crucial to not hurt the sentiments of the Hindu community — the majority population in the country. While issues such as inadequate health care infrastructure, poor education facilities, an ailing rural economy, farmer suicides, caste injustice, take a back seat. It is the protection of the cow that dominates political discussions and even policy, sometimes to the detriment of the poor and the vulnerable. Recently, in Western Uttar Pradesh, it was reported that mid-day meals meant for school children were being diverted and instead being given to cows. In another incident, dozens of children died at a hospital in same state, while TV news studios where busy issuing certificates to people of being nationalist and anti-nationalist. These studios have become courtrooms were everyone’s judged for their remarks, which is a basic right of a human being. Issue like failure of demonetization and nothing coming back from black money have now become lesser important.
Since the Narendra Modi led Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government has come to power in the Centre, cow protection has been a major part of its political and social messaging. Several of the Sangh Parivar’s organisations have established cow protection units, which are a law unto themselves. Numerous cases of lynchings have occurred where people have been killed by mobs on the suspicion of possession of beef or cows for slaughter. In most cases, the guilty have gone unpunished like in the recent case of Pehlu Khan.
Even those who come out to protest against such lynchings are now becoming anti-nationals and enemy of India. The Prime Minister has spent time mostly visiting other countries, praising their culture and development, but back at home such issues are taking back seat. The BJP has been focusing on winning elections after elections by highlighting issues like cow protection, Ayodhya temple or in Jammu and Kashmir Pakistan as sponsor of everything that happens in the Valley. Those who express dissent or even write facts have been murdered in last few years. The recent killing was of a popular senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead at her residence in Bangaluru.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP is in alliance with the regional People’s Democratic Party and has since 2014 been working on increasing its base as well as turning the state communal by raising issues like revocation of Article 35A or Article 370 or even beef ban. In such an atmosphere, the basic issues concerning common people are never addressed and in Kashmir’s case, the political issue for which hundreds of thousands come out on streets are accused of being an uprising sponsored by neighboring Pakistan.
India has changed in last few years, to an extent that dissent is fading slowly, with only exceptions in place, even in the media, which is supposed to be fourth pillar or a democracy. Several editors were forced to quit their organizations or pressured to take a certain political line, thus eroding every concept of a democratic society.