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Cows: A Symbol of Divinity and Discord in Modi's India

Aug 29, 2016 | 09:30 GMT
Cows: A Symbol of Divinity and Discord in Modi’s India
Hindu monks and devotees worship cows in a temple celebration. Cows are both a source of spiritual devotion and political strife in India.
(DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)

Recent events in India have highlighted the challenges Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces in navigating the country's enduring caste divisions. A group of vigilantes in India assaulted four men July 11 whom they accused of killing a cow in the city of Una, Gujarat. Cattle slaughter is illegal in Gujarat. The victims, members of the Chamars, a subcaste of the Dalit (or untouchable) caste, which skins animals for their hides, said the cow they were processing had died naturally. A video of the assault, which showed the men tied to a car and flogged, spread online, prompting a protest by 10,000 Dalits in the state's capital, Ahmedabad. Dalits later dumped cow carcasses in front of government offices, torched buses and blocked a highway, and some 30 caste members attempted suicide. The stakes for Modi are high, particularly in the states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (India's most populous municipality), where state...

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