If you love cows and care for them, you have three choices.

Choice A: Build goshalas or cow shelters where the animals can be taken care of.

Choice B: Ban beef, stop farmers from selling cows and bulls to butchers, outlaw the culling of cattle, punish cow smugglers, declare all slaughter houses illegal, lynch people who eat beef, and justify all this using complex arguments.

Choice C: Build local slaughterhouses near farms so that commercially unviable cattle can be humanely culled nearby, without their having to endure great suffering while being transported in horrible conditions to distant slaughterhouses.

Guess which is the preferred option of the rising multitude of go-raksha vigilantes? Not A, as it is too expensive and tedious, and involves too much work. Not C, because we are conditioned to believe that violence can do no good. So it is Option B, which has the advantage in that it gives people power, writes Devdutt Pattanaik for The Hindu.

There is no love for cows in the go-raksha brigade, it is all about power, a yearning to dominate, he writes, citing a research paper.

In the wake of the Dadri beef lynching last week, the status of the cow in Hinduism has come into sharp focus, says an article in Scroll. Among caste Hindus in large parts of India (Kerala is a notable exception), eating the flesh of the cow is taboo since it is considered sacred. Therefore, its slaughter becomes an emotional topic. However, what’s interesting is that the sacredness of the cow only becomes a violent issue when the issue of beef consumption by Muslims is raised. Cow meat is eaten by a number of communities in India.

Moreover, products derived from cattle, such as leather shoes and bags and even some musical instruments, are used everyday even by people otherwise ready to kill and murder in the name of ‘cow protection’, the article adds.

In Dadri tehsil alone, the district administration, police and political parties believe that at least six different local groups have formed independent cow protection or gau raksha organizations. They include the Gau Raksha Hindu Dal, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Yuva Vahini (run by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath), Arya Veer Dal, Hindu Mahasabha and Hindu Raksha Dal. And they all mirror the same traits—well-funded, young local boys between 18 and 25 years and adept at using smartphones with messenger apps.

Of late, communal intolerance has seen a tremendous upsurge. It seems that the poisonous seed that has been sown is bearing fruit. We are sitting on a simmering cauldron of a communal firestorm, writes Congress MP and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.

On the Dadri mob killing, the culture minister is quoted as saying that those affected will get justice—and that the youth held responsible will also get justice. Sadly, he describes the killing as an “accident".

The home ministry on Monday said there will be “zero tolerance" for incidents that “attempt to weaken the secular fabric of the nation and exploit religious sentiments". Mentioning Dadri—where a 50-year-old man, Mohammad Akhlaq, was killed last week after rumours that he consumed beef—the advisory said the states should “take strictest action as per law... without any exception".

The advisory comes a day after BJP law maker and UP MLA Sangeet Som visited Dadri and allegedly held a meeting outside a temple violating prohibitory orders, which have been in place at Bisara village in Dadri, since 28 September, when Mohammad Akhlaq was killed. Read more.

From ‘soul shaking’ to ‘communal colour’, different political leaders had different opinions about the incident.

Som and union minister of state for agriculture Sanjiv Balyan, both BJP leaders accused of fanning communal violence during the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, commented that Hindu sentiments should be respected and claimed that there was “widespread" cow slaughter in the state. Equally strident was Azam Khan of the Samajwadi Party who wanted to approach the United Nations over the BJP-RSS’s complicity in inciting communal violence.

However, the BJP’s central secretary Sidharth Nath Singh defended Som over his statement that a “befitting reply will be given as was done in Muzaffarnagar" if “innocents" were framed. “In a democracy, if an innocent is forcibly made a culprit then it amounts to murder of democracy. I don’t think there is anything objectionable in what he has said. The Samajwadi government has done nothing in the state. They (critics) have nothing to attack us on the issue of good governance and development. So they are raising irrelevant issues," said Singh.

The incident has thrown a spotlight on the hardline, polarising agenda of some followers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, undermining his promise of development for all, reports ANI. At Silicon Valley last month, Modi won a pledge from Microsoft to provide low-cost Internet for 500,000 villages to back his vision of a globally networked ‘Digital India’ One such village is Bisara, where Akhlaq was beaten to death. Communal clashes had never erupted in Bisara, home to 400 landowning Hindu and 35 Muslim families, even when religious riots broke out in the region.

“You (PM Narendra Modi) are travelling globally to get investments but do not agree to their eating and living habits. So who is confused here? Kis bhasha main log kaam kar rahe hain, kya khaana-peena ho raha hai (What language are people working in, what are they eating and drinking). Tomorrow there can also be fights over eating onions," said UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav in an interview with The Economic Times.

The UP police on Monday wrote a letter to Twitter Inc., asking for removal of certain photographs and text uploaded on the social networking service said to be related to the Dadri incident. To read a list of tweets, click here.

But the larger and more troubling issue outlives the ban. There is a whole alternate media universe that has been spawned via social media where rumours, photoshopped pictures and canards go viral faster than a news story can.

Meanwhile, the district administration on Monday also framed guidelines on disposing of cow carcasses in the area.