Pix : The PM vents against cow vigilantes in his MyGov Townhall speech
Eleven months after Mohammed Akhlaq was killed by cow vigilantes on the suspicion of storing beef in his refrigerator, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally spoke up on August 6 against so-called “gau rakshaks” (cow vigilantes) taking the law in their own hands.
But guess what, the PM’s all-important statements and tweets on the matter have drawn a complete blank on the Twitter handles of BJP party president Amit Shah – he has two accounts, his own @AmitShah and @AmitShahOffice – as well as on the top four ministers in Modi’s government, whether external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, finance minister Arun Jaitley, railways minister Suresh Prabhu or home minister Rajnath Singh.
Not one of these honourable leaders have said one word on their Twitter timelines on this subject.
Even if you argue that the Modi government’s line ministries, like finance, external affairs and railways, are limited to operational matters, the question remains why Modi’s close aide and alter-ego Amit Shah or even home minister Rajnath Singh – whose responsibility it is to maintain law and order – have maintained a stoic silence on the matter.
Here is what the PM said :
And again :
In fact, the BJP has launched yet another Twitter handle called BJP Live, supposedly an Internet TV initiative, but which retweets offline material as well. Besides the official party handle, @BJP4India, and the PM’s two twitter handles, @pmoindia and @narendramodi, @BJPLive was in the forefront tweeting the PM’s comments at the MyDayMyGov event on August 6.
Arvind Gupta, who runs the BJP’s digital strategy and is said to be the man responsible for making Narendra Modi a front-runner in the 2014 elections, says he is now in the process of making a “digital DNA” of the party. So a Narendra Modi app was launched on August 6, with a little help from Google (who masterminded a competition to launch the app a year ago), while @BJPLive covered the PM’s speech where he made his now-famous statements on gau rakshaks. (For some reason it was called a Townhall, just like the events American politicians address),
Gupta pointed out that the MyGovMyDay event was an exercise in participatory governance – evidently people who had sent suggestions to the PM’s Mann Ki Baat or other schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana over the last two years were invited to the Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium to hear the PM speak on that day.
But BJP leaders are unable to explain why the PM’s comments on cow vigilantism have not been picked up by anybody else in government – save union minister for social justice & empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot. On August 7, @TCGEHLOT retweeted a Narendra Modi speech in Telangana, which said that gau seva cannot be used by miscreants posing as gau rakshaks, while another pinned tweet on the same day reiterates a PM’s youtube speech on his government’s duty to protect “the marginalized and Dalits” in Hyderabad.
It certainly looks like both @Amit Shah as well as @rajnathsingh want to maintain an element of deniability on the matter. From Mohammed Akhlaq’s murder in September 2015 to the Dalit youth who recently killed himself protesting the flogging of four Dalit men in Una, Gujarat, the social media accounts (both Facebook and Twitter) of both these top BJP leaders do not touch on this issue at all.
BJP sources were tightlipped in explanation, only conceding off the record that the subject was so sensitive that neither the party president nor the home minister wanted to touch it.
Clearly, the BJP top leadership is putting forward both feet on the gau rakshak-Dalit question. It certainly doesn’t want to antagonize the Dalit population in states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, which go to the polls next year, by defending caste Hindus-turned-cow vigilantes. So the PM has finally broken his silence on this issue and even forced the sacking of the chief minister of Gujarat when caste Hindus thrashed Dalits in Una.
On the other hand, the ominous silence of Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh – whose Facebook page has a video link of his statement on Dalit atrocities he made in Parliament on July 21 – is certainly telling. Shah was responsible for the BJP’s incredible 71-seat victory (out of 80 seats) in 2014, which was underpinned by caste Hindus as well as Dalits voting for Narendra Modi with both hands and feet. How was he now expected to backtrack by admitting to the horror?
Neither does @AmitShah.Official, the BJP president’s Facebook page, mention anything about any “gau-rakshak” vigilantism. You would never know from reading Amit Shah’s social media accounts that Dalits were protesting their ill-treatment by caste Hindus, including at a rally in Ahmedabad recently and had decided not to lift the carcasses of cows until they were accorded greater dignity.
It was as if the PM’s confessional at his MyGov event on August 6 as well as his subsequent statements on the matter had passed them by.
@AmitShahOffice’s top tweet till August 9 is about the speech the party president gave at the National Writer’s Meet organized by the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Research Foundation, in Delhi on July 30.
There are several retweets of the hashtag #2YearsOfAmitShah. Further down his timeline are several tweets congratulating the new chief minister and deputy chief minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani and Nitin Patel respectively, about the wonderful work he is sure they will do in leading Gujarat to new heights – this is natural, considering Shah masterminded the sacking of Anandiben Patel and the elevation of his own close aide and fellow Jain, Vijay Rupani.
There is even a tweet about wishing all Indians a wonderful ‘Nag Panchami’ on August 7.
Meanwhile @rajnathsingh’s has forgotten to wish Amit Shah on his two-year-old presidency -- unlike Manohar Parrikar, Vasundhara Raje, Mahesh Sharma and Shahnawaz Hussai. But the home minister has had his hands full travelling to Islamabad to participate in the SAARC home ministers conference, speaking to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on the Kokrajhar attack and launching a book on Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Another week, another tweet, another story. Both @AmitShah and @rajnathsingh seem to have already moved on from @narendramodi’s heartburn on Dalit atrocities.
Jyoti Malhotra is a senior journalist based in New Delhi