- BJP supports cow protection but not breaking the law: Gadkari
- In recent instances, cow vigilantes were dressed in saffron
- Nitin Gadkari says opposition is "blaming us for the incidents"
"We support Gau Raksha (cow protection). There should not be any cow killing -- our party believes in that," he said. "(But) Whatever is happening in the name of gau raksha... our ministers, our party, our government... do not agree with it. You cannot take law in your own hands," he added, echoing Prime Minister's Narendra Modi's strictures on the subject last year.
The blame, he said, lies with the men caught breaking the law, who claim they belong to the BJP. "Sometimes I am astonished to see on television -- anyone says he belongs to BJP. Neither was that person in BJP, nor did we have any relationship with him... They say all wrong things against us," the minister said.
In some of the recent instances of violence, cow vigilantes have not only been dressed in the BJP's trademark saffron, they have also claimed to belong to organisations linked to the senior party leaders.
In April, a man arrested for allegedly roughing up a man transporting cattle in Delhi, had claimed to be a member of People For Animals, a non-profit headed by Union Minister Maneka Gandhi. The minister's office had denied the claims.
The opposition hasn't lost an opportunity to criticize the government over the incidents. While leaders like Mayawati has accused the BJP of targeting the poor, the Left and the Congress have accused it of furthering what they call the communal agenda.
In August last year, after four Dalits were flogged in Gujarat, PM Modi had used his first-ever townhall to deliver a lacerating statement on cow vigilates. "I get so angry at those who are into the Gau-Rakshak business. Most of these people are "anti-social elements hiding behind the mask of Gau Rakshaks," he had said.
The issue of cow vigilantism has also been underscored by Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the party's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The work of cow protection should be done within the ambit of the law and any violence in its name, "defames the cause", he had said.
Mr Gadkari said as in society, there are good and bad people in political parties. It is best to focus on what the senior leaders say than on outsiders masquerading as partymen, he added.
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