Politics Of Cow Protection
The attack on some trucks carrying animals allegedly for slaughter in which two persons sustained injuries, and fatal attack on a scooter-riding man carrying fodder for animals one day before Eid-ul-Adha in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, let the gory tale of hapless Muslims in the city who lived on the razor's edge while celebrating the festival of sacrifice.
Behind all these incidents, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal have emerged the mastermind. Three cases are in point. Earlier, they stopped a truck loaded with sheep and goats meant for sacrifice for Eid-ul-Adha on the pretext that cows and calves were being carried for slaughter. They beat up its driver Anwarbhai Nabibhai Soniwala and his helper Nasirkhan Ibrahimkhan Pathan with pipes and other sharp weapons. Both sustained injuries, but were out of danger.
The police registered cases against Shaileshbhai Ganapatibhai Patel, Sharatbhai Mangalbhai Vyas, Phoolabhai Shankerbhai Vyas and Babubhai Ratilal Patel, all said to be Bajrang Dal activists. The police are still on the look-out for some vehicles reportedly used in the attack.
In another incident, the police booked one Bajrang Dal activist and six VHP men for attacks on two other trucks, again believed to be carrying animals. "Some of them are criminals," said G. Division Assistant Commissioner of Police R.J. Savani. One person, identified as Ismail Noori, was injured in the incident. According to Mr. Savani, the accused are Babubhai Rajabhai Patel alias Babu Katchi alias Babu Bajrangi, a self-styled Bajrang Dal chief, and VHP activists P.J. Rajput, Vinod Ratibhai Patel, Anilbhai Patel, Kalpesh Valand and two others belonging to the Sangh Parivar.
In the third incident, Mohammed Yasin Mohammed Kasambhai (35) and his friend Naeem Akhtar Ghulam Rasool (20) were carrying fodder on a scooter when a mob of about 20 men attacked them with pipes, axes and swords near Prem Darwaza on the intervening night of March 16 and 17. Mohammed Yasin who received five wounds was later declared dead at the civil hospital while the pillion rider Naeem escaped with a fracture to one hand. Yasin was survived by a wife and two daughters. The police registered a case of murder and rioting on the basis of Naeem's complaint.
Now the VHP and the BJP government of Gujarat are at logger-heads over the booking of VHP and Bajrang Dal activists. The VHP leaders alleged that the government was ineffective in preventing the "illegal flow of animals" into the city and was wrongly implicating its members. On the other hand, Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya maintained that no one would be allowed to take the law into one's hand. In all these cases, Bajrang Dal and VHP activists failed to seize even a single cow or its progeny. The attacks were made on the innocent on mere suspicion that they were heading for cow slaughter. Their motive was to whip up tension on the days before Eid-ul-Adha and cause a communal flare-up at other places by spreading rumours that cows were slaughtered by Muslims. Only a few months ago, a communal had riot erupted over cow-slaughter in Pholadi town of Jodhpur district in Rajasthan.
A Slow Death
Thanks to the saffron dispensation, Gujarat is the first state where cow protection campaigns were launched and a ban on cow slaughter is in effect. But cows are forced to die a slow, tortuous death by starvation. Sixty cows die in this way daily under the supervision of an organisation, Rashtriya Kamdhenu Kalyan Parishad financed by state government. The organisation runs 20 cow-pens and receives a daily grant of Rs. 1.5 lakh to take care of them.
Fifty to 60 cows die of diseases and want of nutrition on an average every day. A number of Hindu farmers send their weak and unproductive cows to these cow-pens after the latter are too old to become useful for any purpose. Before the ban on cow slaughter was imposed, they used to sell them to slaughter-houses. Many farmers do not sell cows directly to butchers, but to the middlemen, who ultimately sell them to the butchers. Still, they feel that they are protectors of cows. It is an irony that they prefer slow and subtle process resulting in the death of old cows to slaughter. But the question arises whether slow and painful death by disease and starvation is the better for the poor animals.
Cows in these pens get dry grass and water only. According to a spokesman of the organisation, some 5,000 cows are ill and in need of a mixture of jaggery and cattle-feed with protein and sesame oil if they are to survive. "The situation was much worse a month ago when daily 100 to 200 cows were dying in our centres due to the crunch of resources. We had no grass or cattle-feed," said Dr. M.S. Agarwal, general secretary of the organisation.Ban on cow slaughter is like prohibition in the state. Even in Uttar Pradesh ruled by the BJP, cow slaughter is an excuse to harass minorities. Poor Muslims are thrown into lock-ups merely on the pretext that they had slaughtered a cow, ate her meat and buried the bones. No evidence was ever required. If the State Governments are serious enough, they should nip the problem in the bud by dealing with the sellers of cows sternly.
Delhi is no different. The erstwhile Khurana Government in the state had constituted seven cow-pens to give shelter to the cows, lame, old, weak and discarded by their owners. For the purpose, a total of 302 acres of land was sanctioned, where more than 3,555 cows are finding shelter. These cow-pens are spending more than Rs. 21.2 million per annum. According to a report published in the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya, the conditions of cows is pathetic and traumatic in all save one or two pens. Most of the pens have neither proper shadow nor fair arrangement for their care. There are too few veterinarians to treat the sick cows. The need of the hour is to know whether or not the owners of these pens are duly spending the funds allocated for cows. It is alleged that the land is being misused for personal gains.
Most of the cow owners do not tie them up, but leave them wander on the roads. Thus, they not only hamper the traffic but also the lives of these poor animals are in jeopardy. These animals trample over plants and flowers in the parks. Delhi Municipal Corporation impound the astray cows and send them to cow-pens. The owners get back the healthy cows; and weak and old cows are left at the mercy of authorities. Resultingly, a great number of cows in pens die, in most cases within a month.
According to a report prepared by a committee set up by the Delhi Government to look into the conditions of cows in the pens, since 1995 a total of 35,735 cows have been given shelter. Of them, a total of 29,932 cows have died, i.e., 70 per cent cases of death. A total of 11,194 cows died in the pens run by the mother of Maneka Gandhi, a Union Minister. Ms. Maneka Gandhi, who is known for her love for animals and birds all over the country.
Irony Of Ironies
The irony of ironies is that it is the members of the majority community who revere cows and sell them to the slaughterhouses or leave them to die in cow-pens. If the cows are in fact dear to them, they should bear all the expenses till the eleventh hour of the animals. The VHP and Bajrang Dal activists never attack the sellers of the cows, but target the buyers. It transpires that there is a conspiracy behind the attacks. First of all, Hindus sell cows to Muslims and inform the champions of cow protection of the transaction so that they may impound the animals, thus both making money and re-possessing animals. Poor Muslims! They remain at the receiving end.
When India got Independence in 1947, the Directive Principles of the Constitution recommended to the government "to take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle". But the economic needs of the country have always hampered the attempts to impose country-wide ban on cow slaughter, favouring the disposal of the useless, unproductive and unserviceable cattle stock. India cannot afford to rear and nourish such a large number of cattle progeny. Under the spell of cow veneration, the members of the community hardly pay attention to feeding and breeding these dumb animals. They adopt double standards. Dairy professionals allegedly kill the calf just after birth, skin it and place it before the mother cow to induce her in order to get more milk. The poor animal licks her dead calf lovingly and satisfies her owners. Besides, they administer vaccines to the cows so as to get milk without delay. By this process, a milch cow goes dry. Still, they claim that they do not slaughter cows.
India is the only secular country where cow is revered with religious fanaticism. A lot of cow protection committees were set up and enormous money was spent lavishly in the name of cow protection. The Sangh Parivar and its off-shoots have taken up this task. The VHP president, Mr. Ashok Singhal, has gone to the extent of asking to "Quit India, O Cow Slaughterers". A Hindi daily Navbharat Times editorially quoted on February 25, 1998 a BJP leader as saying in the Meghalaya Assembly, "... most of people eat beef here.".
Even in the past, Hindus used to eat beef. Hindu scriptures bear testimony in this regard. Several Hindu scholars such as Tilak, Bhagwan Das, Jayendra Vidhyalkar, Kanhaiya Lal, Munshi..... etc. have admitted to have eaten beef.According to Manavgrah Sutra, "Gau sadhen madhupkrain pujayate," i.e., worship is conducted with the madhupark made of cow. On another occasion, this scripture says, "Namaso madhupark itikshati," i.e., madhupark can never be devoid of meat.
When the Hindutva organisations -- Hindu Mahasabha, Sanatan Dharma Sabha, Arya Samaj, Sadhu Samaj, Jan Sangh, etc. -- joined hands together under the banner of An All Party Cow Protection Campaign, they called for a general strike on November 7, 1966. Over two lakh people gathered outside the Parliament and staged a violent agitation wherein even saints, who were champions of a life of austerity and renunciation, participated in anti-national activities. At that time, Babu Jagjivan Ram had disclosed that in the past Hindus used to eat beef.
Scientists and economists have never approved a total ban on cow slaughter, because such a step will impact disastrously the Indian economy. A blanket ban on cow slaughter will lead to critical food situation for human beings, and hit rather hard the hides, bonemeal and meat industries. Hardly is fodder output in the country sufficient to feed half the number of cattle, more cultivation of land for fodder output will invite dire consequences. If the human population has to survive, we will have to reduce the competition between man and animal for food. If the country-wide ban is put into effect, India will have to face another problem more severe than her population problem. Our saffron brethren must not turn a blind eye to economic implications.