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Was Mohan Bhagwat backing Modi or differing with him on cow vigilante groups?

Mohan Bhagwat’s statements are also seen to have a message that administrations should not treat cow vigilantes on par with those who create disharmony.

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Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comments on the role of “gau rakshaks (cow protectors)” has sparked off a debate—was he endorsing what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said two months ago or disagreeing with him.

The line was thin. While addressing the annual Dussehra rally in Nagpur, Bhagwat said gau rakshaks should not be mistaken with miscreants. Modi had come down heavily on “self-styled” gau rakshaks at his first Townhall, and said, “I have seen that some people are into crimes all night and wear the garb of gau rakshaks in the day.”

Bhagwat was more assuaging towards gau rakshaks, while Modi, had outrightly castigated the atrocities on Dalit youths by cow vigilante groups for skinning a dead cow in Gujarat. But, the RSS chief too differentiated between cow vigilante groups and those “spreading religious hatred” and said they should not violate the law.

“Many communities like Jains are involved in Gau raksha (cow protection). Gau rakshaks are good people. You cannot compare cow protectors to those trying to spread religious hatred. Cow protection is good for the country...But they should work under the law and Constitution,” he said.

Further, he went on to say “the Gau raksha laws were not made by this regime. Gau rakshaks have to launch agitation at times to save cows. The administration should be careful as to see who are the law breakers and who create nuisance.” 

However, Bhagwat’s statements are also seen to have a message that administrations should not treat cow vigilantes on par with those who create disharmony. Modi’s comments had come after the furore over the violence on Dalits in Una, at a time when the BJP was reaching out to the community ahead of the UP and Punjab elections.

Bhagwat spoke of gau rakshaks while delivering the ritualistic Vijayadashmi address in Nagpur, where the Sangh was seen in its new uniform—brown pants. He spoke of a range of issues, including efforts of Indian Army for carrying out the surgical strike and PM’s leadership in the recent times. 

“Regarding the nuisance in J&K from across the border, I congratulate the Army for the operations under the leadership of government. I congratulate the government for its diplomatic offensive. We need more such efforts. Even one moment of lax on the border could cost us heavily,” the RSS Chief said.

He said that not just the entire J&K, but PoK is also a part of India. “From Mirpur, Muzaffarabad to Gilgit-Baltistan, the entire Kashmir is a part of India. Any unrest in Kashmir is fueled by elements across the border and our government is giving a befitting reply to them,” he added.

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