The lynching of five dalits – Virender, Dayanand, Kailash, Raju Gupta and Tota Ram – in Jhajjar (Haryana), reportedly by a frenzied mob, for skinning a dead cow is yet another pointer to the criminality that marks mob behaviour, thanks to the communal manipulation of mass religiosity by those who wish to thrive by it. . . . The disturbing truth is that a 5000-strong mob could collect at the drop of a hat to lynch those who skinned a dead cow. But it is doubtful if there would be even five among them willing to mind living cows that need care and protection. . . . We do not know how the cow in the present episode died; whether someone other than the five victims killed it or whether it died of starvation, street accident, old age or sickness. It is almost certain that no one among the murderous mob asked this question. Nor would it have occurred to them that being a friend to cows involves much more than being enemies of the enemies of cows.

Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thampu (2002)

Among contemporary social reformers in India, the Indian monk Swami Agnivesh is a widely recognised figure. Agnivesh gained prominence three decades ago for his efforts in bringing to attention the problems of bonded and child labour in India.The Bandhua Mukti Morcha, or Bonded Labour Liberation Front, which he founded in 1981 while he was still serving as Minister of Education in the state of Haryana, became known for carrying out daring rescues of labourers bonded for life, for instance many of those working in the quarries around Delhi. Agnivesh became the public face of India in international forums on the abolition of slavery, but he has also intervened over the years on many other social issues, from female feticide and the Hindu rite of widow immolation to corruption and the Indian state’s relation to Maoist revolutionaries.

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