On 7 November 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi “adopted” the village of Jayapur under the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana—a rural development project that he had launched in October that year. Located around 30 kilometres away from Varanasi, Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, Jayapur, according to the census report of 2011, is home to 2,974 residents. In April 2014, a month before he was elected prime minister, a high tension electric line had fallen in the village, injuring four people. Irked by the time it took for the authorities to reach the village, Modi noted on Twitter that it was “disturbing to know that the injured did not get timely medical attention.” Seven months later, as he announced his decision to take the village under his wings, the prime minister assured the villagers that they would develop a “new Jayapur” together and added, “An MP does not adopt a village. A village adopts an MP.”
Soon after, Jayapur was catapulted into the national spotlight. By 2015, several media reports were heralding the speedy progress that it had witnessed since Modi’s endorsement. Some stories claimed that Jayapur was riding the “crest of the development boom” while others declared that the village had given one year of Modi a “thumbs up.” Indeed, when I visited Jayapur in August 2016, I could not help but notice some signs of this ostensible development: the two banks in the village, an ATM, the solar-powered street-lights, and a solar power plant. However, recent dispatches from early 2016 cast a more sober light on the narrative surrounding Jayapur.
These stories pointed out that the infrastructural projects in the village had been constructed in haste and with little coordinationbetween various officials. In a report published in the Indian Express in August 2016, Vishnu Varma noted that “a majority of the development projects have landed in Jayapur, courtesy of private companies who as one official put it, ‘were inspired by the vision of Narendra Modi.’” (As of April 2015, according toa report by Manavi Kapur in Business Standard, Modi had himself spent only Rs 40 lakh from the Rs 5 crore allotted under the scheme.) During my visit to Jayapur, I learnt that one such organisation is Allanasons, a Mumbai-based food-processing company that claims to be “the largest producer and exporters [sic] of Halal Boneless Buffalo meat.” Allanasons’ product range, delivered to over 70 countries worldwide, includes frozen buffalo meat, chilled vacuum packed buffalo meat and frozen buffalo offal. “Owing to their high protein content and low fat,” the company states on its website, “the offered frozen meat is highly demanded in the market.”
In the run-up to his election as the prime minister of India, Modi frequently employed the term “pink revolution” to describe and mock the policies that, according to him, encouraged the slaughter of cows. At an election rally in Bihar in April 2014, he clarified the rationale behind this nomenclature, explaining that when an animal was killed and cut, the colour of its meat was pink. Modi condemned, with apparent disdain, the-then union government’s promotion of slaughter houses and export of meat through subsidies and tax breaks. He went on to question how the leaders of the “Yaduvansh”—the Yadavs—such as Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav could bear to ally with the Congress. “I am coming from Dwarka city and Dwarka has a direct connection to the Yaduvanshis,” Modi said, “And because of this connection, I feel at home here. I am therefore shocked that the same Yadavs who worship Shri Krishna—who keeps cows as livestock, who serves the cow—it is their leaders who are in bed with the same people who proudly massacre animals.” He repeated much of this in a subsequent rally at Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, asserting that the central government’s encouragement of meat trade had meant that, “in every village, the poor farmer, ridden by difficulties, is selling his livestock because of the greed for money.” This was not the first time he had made a contemptuous reference to the government’s enthusiasm for the export of beef. In October 2012, speaking at the fourth annual general meeting of the Jain International Trade Organisation, Modi, as the chief minister of Gujarat, expressed his anguish over the central government’s announcement that India was the world’s largest exporter of beef that year. “Is this what we pride ourselves on,” he said, “Brothers and sisters, I don’t know whether this saddens you, but my heart screams out at this. I am unable to understand why you are silent, why you are taking this lying down?”
Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, there has been a rise in the attempts to culturally re-align the idea of India to one that is accordant with the Hindutva ideology the party espouses. These efforts have included growing restrictions on the consumption of beef across the country, which have been accompanied by the rapid evolution of violent cow vigilantism. In his story on the cow vigilantes of Haryana, Ishan Marvel, a former reporter with The Caravan, wrote that numerous Hindutva groups across the country “indoctrinate young men into deifying the cow, and into being willing to kill or die protecting it.” “Often the victims of such vigilantism,” he added, “are outsiders to mainstream Hinduism, such as Muslims and Dalits, who do not share the religious sentiments associated with the animal.”