Ratcheting up its attack on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, fellow saffron outfit Shiv Sena today dared cow vigilantes to fight for the country in Kashmir and asked if Pakistan was behind such attackers.
India has seen two waves of vigilante attacks targeted at those who eat beef or transport cows and buffaloes. The first one started soon after the BJP-government headed by Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, and the second was soon after Modi selected hardline leader Yogi Adityanath to head the Uttar Pradesh government earlier this year.
While the first wave died down after Modi called gau-rakshaks part-time criminals, the second wave has shown more resilience, and the governments have not been able to completely bring it under control.
“It looks to me like this violence could be part of Pakistan’s efforts to create Hindu-Muslim riots in the country, while they do what they do in Kashmir,” said senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut today.
In an interview to a TV channel, he called such attackers ‘fake’ and said that if they really wanted to defend the nation with arms, they should go to Kashmir and defend the country with guns.
Raut’s comments were a follow-up to a scathing editorial in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna, in which it accused the Modi government of ‘surrendering before gau-rakshaks’.
“It is appalling that the gau-rakshaks take law into their own hands and beat up a person,” the paper said in an editorial today, accusing the law and order machinery of being a ‘mute spectator’ to such lynchings.
The comments indicate a move by the saffron outfit to reinvent itself.
For long, the Shiv Sena — known for its aggressive rhetoric and activities — has thrived in Maharashtra as the saffron party that appealed to the intermediate castes, while the BJP and the RSS were seen as upper caste dominated outfits.
However, with Modi — a member of the backward castes — coming to head the BJP, many voters belonging to the intermediate and Dalit segments of the population have switched their loyalties to the national party, helping it defeat the Shiv Sena in state elections.
The Sena believes that it will continue to lose its base unless it can differentiate itself from the BJP and offer more than just Hindutva — something that the BJP also offers.
It seems to have decided that appealing to anti-BJP voters would be a good idea, even if it has to be dilute some of its Hindutva credentials to do so.