Case study: A dangerous speech that triggered lynchings in India (2013-2018)

Abstract: India has been steadily transforming from an aspiring liberal democracy into an ethnic democracy where a narrow and supremacist interpretations of Hinduism, the religion of the majority, wields near hegemonic status. An early indication of this transformation was the systematic, and violent, mainstreaming of the ‘gau raksha’ (cow protection’) discourse, which sought to impose a Hindu belief – the veneration of the cow and its slaughter and consumption as sacrilegious – on the entire country. Underlying the discourse were long-standing resentments against Muslims who are predominantly involved in the cattle trade, the slaughter of cows, and the consumption of beef. Endorsements by popular politicians spawned vigilante groups of gau rakshaks (cow protectors) who inflicted arbitrary violence on Muslims who were suspected of engaging in cow slaughter, often with the state protection and the moral conviction that their actions are chivalrous.

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