After decades of minimal response shown to the desperate cries of the Indian cows being subjected to bad treatment, India witnesses a sudden spurt in intolerance towards such practices. Several instances of cow protection or self-proclaimed gau rakshan certainly puts the issue on the map of political agenda for the ruling as well as the opposition parties.
In July 2016, in Gujarat, four Dalit men were tied to a car and were hit with belts and sticks by vigilantes. This happened over cow slaughter suspicions besides being robbed of their cash and cellphones. Earlier that year in March, Mohammed Mazlum Ansari, 35, who was a Muslim cattle trader, was found hanging from a tree along with a 12-year-old boy, Mohammed Imteyaz Khan. Both had their hands tied behind their backs and their bodies were bruised with signs of mistreatment. Though the police arrested eight suspects, the case remains pending until date.
The most recent of such cases took place on April 1, 2017, in Alwar, Rajasthan where a mob of about 200 cow vigilantes, who were Hindus and consider cows sacred, stopped six vehicles carrying dairy cows and attacked fifteen men accusing them of exporting cows for slaughter.
Among the people assaulted was Pehlu Khan, 55, who was immediately rushed to the hospital but succumbed to his injuries two days later on April 3rd. Mohammed Yusuf, the brother of one of those injured in the attack informed that the attackers not only stole the three dairy cows worth 75000 rupees but also stole 35000 rupees his brother was carrying.
Before filing a complaint against the aggressors, the police first registered a complaint against Khan and other victims under Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act of 1995, for cruelty against animals, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. Khan’s son alleged that the cows were dairy cows and were being transported form Jaipur to Jaisinghpur for sale after collecting necessary receipts and papers showing legitimate purchase of the cattle in Rajasthan.
This comes after various amendments, which have been made to existing cow protection acts in different states to increase and assure the safety of the sacred bovine. In March this year, the Gujarat assembly passed a bill amplifying the punishment for cow slaughter to life imprisonment from a previous seven-year jail term.
The amendment also includes permanent confiscation of the vehicle used along with a fine of up to 1-lakh rupees. Soon after BJP appointed Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, he cracked down on many apparently illegal slaughterhouses. These were mostly run by Muslims. This gave rise to the fear of possible Hindu exodus into western UP which currently holds a Muslim majority demographic.
This has also encouraged proliferation of cow protection groups and acts a source to justify their actions with.
“Now entire India is a cow protection group because people are angered by such cruelty to animals,” said Pawan Pandit, leader of Bhartiya Gau Raksha Dal. The BGRD is among the largest cow protection networks in India.
The police has proved to be incompetent in providing any kind of aid or help to the assault victims. They added, “Many of them gave the money back to a lot of people and distributed it among various relatives or even shop owners in their areas. This opportunity now is the way to earn some of it back”. When speaking about how some meat sellers had to compensate for the empty pockets of police officers by filling in lump sum amounts.
There is increasing tension in the country both communal and political. This has people debating whether such practices are a result of religious sentiments or political strategies. With amendments such as the one to the Gujarat Animal Protection Act, few months before the assembly elections in Gujarat is a clear indication of religious influence for political advantage.
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