New government in Modi’s south India stronghold vows to undo anti-minority laws

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, June 8 (EFE).- The new government in India’s Karnataka has promised to end many discriminatory laws enacted by the previous BJP administration, ushering in dramatic changes in the southern state known as the “laboratory of Hindu nationalism” until recently.

Last month, the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suffered a resounding defeat to the Indian National Congress (INC) after five years in power in the only south Indian state.

The INC, the nation’s main opposition party but in dire straits since its loss in the 2019 general elections, has set out to do away with some of the most controversial and allegedly discriminatory measures taken by the Hindu nationalist party.

The new government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has started by setting its sights on a 2020 law strictly banning the slaughter of cows, which are considered sacred by Hindus, and has warned Hindu radical groups against doing anything that violates the law.

“What the BJP did was they allowed the slaughter of bulls and buffaloes, but banned the slaughter of cows… If bulls and buffaloes can be slaughtered, why not cows?” animal husbandry minister K. Venkatesh told reporters last week.

Siddaramaiah said earlier this week that his cabinet would consider repealing a law that puts the burden of keeping livestock that is no longer productive on farmers.

A 1964 law banned the killing of cows but made exceptions for cattle over 10 years old. However, the rise of Hindu nationalism, with Modi coming to power in 2014, has led BJP-controlled states to adopt increasingly restrictive laws.

Moreover, the INC’s electoral promises included banning groups if they disturbed the peace, implying Hindu radical Bajrang Dal or even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the latter considered the ideological parent of Modi’s party.

The overtly belligerent tone against Hindu nationalism, which opposition parties avoid doing directly for fear of losing votes of the Hindu majority, has drawn protests from the BJP.

The issue regarding cow slaughter sparked BJP protests on Monday and Tuesday.

“We will not allow the Congress government to withdraw the anti-cow slaughter legislation. We will stage a protest across the state,” said Karnataka BJP’s general secretary N. Ravikumar, according to The Hindu newspaper.

The change in government in the southern state is a significant development because Karnataka has been the testing ground for Hindu nationalism, Mujibur Rehman, professor of political science at Jamia Milia Islamia University in New Delhi, told EFE.

The enactment of laws punishing forced conversions in the framework of interreligious marriages, driven by the conspiracy theory of “love jihad” which accuses Muslim men of deceiving Hindu women into converting them to Islam, and the ban of the Islamic veil in schools are some examples of this, according to Rehman.

“This policy of the BJP is basically to target minorities,” said the professor, adding that cow slaughter affected the livelihood of “basically Muslims.”

He said such policies since the BJP’s victory in the 2014 general elections led to the proliferation of so-called “cow vigilantes,” or groups of Hindu extremists who attack people for allegedly transporting cows or carrying beef.

However, Rehman expressed his doubts about whether the INC’s victory in Karnataka, one of the richest states and which sends a significant number of parliamentarians to the capital, would play an important role in the general elections next year.

“What it has done is that it has encouraged the Congress to become a little more active and optimistic. But I don’t think that is going to impact national elections in a big way,” he said. EFE


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