Restorative Justice Approach to Cow Vigilante Violence in India

Abstract views: 661 / PDF downloads: 530


  • Muhammad Akram Eastern Mennonite University
  • Asim Nasar Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
  • Muhammad Rizwan Safdar University of the Punjab, Pakistan
  • Falak Sher Government College University Faisalabad, Pakistan



cow vigilantism, historic harm, India, religious minorities, violence.


This paper elaborates on a restorative justice approach to cow vigilante violence in India, intending to develop specific arguments put forward in previous works. It covers the historical, political, and economic aspects of cow vigilante violence against Muslim and Dalit minorities in India, where majority Hindus believe in the cow as a mother to be protected from harm or slaughter. A comparative analysis approach is used to relate the past and present context of cow vigilantism in India. Schematic diagrams are used to discuss the trends, legislation, and restorative governmentalities in terms of building peace among the communities. The key findings suggest that to influence violent and oppressor ideologies of Hindu nationalists in today’s India, Muslims should rationally acknowledge the historic harm Muslim rulers have caused to Hindus. This paper recommends adopting an emergent system for change and triangulating the response to violence to overcome the cow vigilante violence in India. To transform the violent ideologies against Muslims and Dalits over cow protection, the government of India needs to adopt a holistic approach to transform violence and restrict political misuse of the notion of cow protection.


Download data is not yet available.


Asrar, S. (2017, July 11). India suspends ban on trade of cattle for slaughter. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from

Benaji, S., & Bhat, R. (2018). WhatsApp vigilantes: An exploration of citizen reception and circulation of WhatsApp misinformation linked to mob violence in India. The London School of Economics and Political Science.

BusinessLine. (2019, October 16). Livestock population in India rises 4.6 percent to nearly 546 million, shows census. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from

Chatterjee, A. K. (2016). How the British gave a fillip to cow vigilantism in colonial India. Huffington Post. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from

Doniger, W. (2017). Hinduism and its complicated history with cows (and people who eat them). The Conversation. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from

Elections.In. (2019). List of Chief Ministers (CMs) in India. Retrieved November 1, 2019, from

Galtung, J. (1976). Three approaches to peace: Peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding.

Gowen, A. (2018a, July 16). Why India has 5 million stray cows roaming the country. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from 2018/07/16/amp-stories/why-india-has-million-stray-cows-roaming-country/

Gowen, A. (2018b, July 17). India’s Supreme Court warns of ‘mobocracy,’ urges government to pass anti-lynching law after deadly attacks. Retrieved December 11, 2019, from

Goyal, D. (2016, August 12). Punjab: Dairy farmers, cattle traders protest against cow vigilantes. Retrieved February 17, 2020, from

Hindustan Times. (2013, September 24). 107 killed in riots this year; 66 Muslims, 41 Hindus. Retrieved January 20, 2020, from

Hindustan Times. (2015, May 22). Those who want to eat beef should go to Pak: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Retrieved October 10, 2020, from

Human Rights Watch. (2019). Violent cow protection in India, vigilante groups attack minorities. Retrieved January 10, 2020, from

Jah, D. N. (2002). The myth of the holy cow. Verso.

Kahane, A. (2012). Transformative scenario planning: changing the future by exploring alternatives. Strategy & Leadership. 40(5), 19-23. DOI:

Kennedy, U., Sharma, A., & Phillips, C. J. C. (2018) The sheltering of unwanted cattle, experiences in India and implications for cattle industries elsewhere. Animals, 8(5), 1-8. DOI:

Marlow, I. (2019, February 20). Cow vigilantes in India killed at least 44 people, report finds. Retrieved October 29, 2019, from

Narayanan, Y. (2019). “Cow is a mother, mothers can do anything for their children!” Gaushalas as landscapes of anthropatriarchy and Hindu patriarchy. HYPATIA, A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, 34(2), 195-221. DOI:

NDTV. (2014, August 27). Watch: ‘If they kill one Hindu, we will ….’: cut-and-paste video, says Yogi Adityanath. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from

Parashar, U. (2017, March 28). No beef ban if we come to power in poll-bound northeast states: BJP. Retrieved January 8, 2020, from

Pavlich, G. (2005). Healing crime’s harm. In Governing paradoxes of restorative justice (pp.25-42). Glass House Press.

Qureshi, F. S. (2018). Nationalism and political violence in India. Naval Postgraduate School, California. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from

Rihani, S. (2002). Implications of adopting complexity framework for development. Progress in Development Studies, 2(2), 133-143. DOI:

Rosenberg, M. B. (n.d.). How you can use the NVC process. Center for Nonviolent Communication. Retrieved November 13, 2019, from www.nonviolentcommunication. com/pdf_files/4part_nvc_process.pdf (n.d.). The Mughal Empire timeline. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from

Sunder, J. (2018). Religious beef: Dalit literature, bare life, and cow protection in India, Interventions, 21(3), 337-353. DOI:

Swamy, S. (2009, November 21). Save the cow, save the earth. The New India Express. Retrieved October 29, 2019, from

Venkatraman, R. (2017, June 17). Gandhi in context: What the Mahatma really thought about cow slaughter. Swaraja. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from gandhi-in-context-what-the-mahatma-really-thought-about-cow-slaughter

Winston, K. (2015). The ‘Splainer: What makes the cow sacred to Hindus? Religion News Service. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from the-splainer-what-makes-the-cow-sacred-to-hindus/2015/11/05/acdde3e2-840c-11e5-8bd2-680fff868306_story.html

Woolford, A. (2009). Delineating the restorative justice ethos; History, theory, and restorative justice. In The politics of restorative justice; A critical introduction. Fernwood Publishing.

World Atlas. (2018). The world's largest exporters of beef. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from




How to Cite

Akram, M., Nasar, A., Safdar, M. R., & Sher, F. (2020). Restorative Justice Approach to Cow Vigilante Violence in India. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 8(1), 190–205.



Original Manuscript

Most read articles by the same author(s)