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'Gau Rakshaks' Beaten Up In Maharashtra For Stopping A Tempo Carrying Cows

The animals were allegedly being transported for slaughter.

06/08/2017 1:47 PM IST | Updated 06/08/2017 2:15 PM IST
Cathal McNaughton / Reuters
Representational image.

In a reversal of circumstances, a group of gau rakshaks, or cow vigilantes, were attacked by a mob of 50-odd people in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, The Indian Express reported.

The incident took place on Saturday evening, when one Shivshankar Rajendra Swami of Pune, who claims to be a legally-appointed "honorary animal welfare officer", intercepted a tempo transporting bovines with the help of 11 other gau rakshaks and the police.

The owner of the vehicle, Wahid Shaikh, and the driver, Raju Fatrubhai Shaikh, were allegedly transporting 2 cows and 10 oxen to a slaughterhouse. Cow slaughter as well as the sale and consumption of the animal's meat are illegal in Maharashtra.

The Indian Express said Swami has a reputation for making such interventions, being a complainant in as many as 300 cases of illegal cow transportation in the state. A member of the Akhil Bharat Krushi Goseva Sangh, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, and being the Gorakhsa Pramukh (chief of the cow protectors) of the Samasta Hindu Aghadi, he is provided 12-hour police protection every day within the limits of the city of Pune due to alleged threats to his life.

On Saturday, he wasn't prepared for the sight that greeted him when he went to the police station in Shrigonda to lodge a case against the cow transporters. Along with media persons, an angry crowd was present on the spot to greet the cow protectors, bearing sticks and stones.

According to Mid-Day, about 20-25, not 50, people attacked the gau rakshaks, most of them local butchers. However, a DNA report quoted Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ahmednagar, Sudarshan Munde, as saying, "As per the FIR lodged by Swami, we have booked about 30 persons." The accused have been booked under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 395 (dacoity) and other sections of the Indian Penal Code. At least seven people were injured in the incident.

While the attack cannot be condoned by any logic, reports of cow vigilantism have peaked in the media in the recent months. As a survey by data journalism portal IndiaSpend showed, there has been a significant rise in the number of incidents of "cow terrorism" since the BJP-led government came to power in 2014 at the Centre. People, especially members of minority groups, have been attacked by rightwing Hindutva flag-bearers for 'perceived crimes' of cow transportation with the intention to slaughter or alleged beef-eating.

Most of these brutalities erupted based on mere rumours, with no basis in reality. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi severely condemned these atrocities, asking cow vigilantes to not take law in their hands. If the results are anything to go by, none of his admonitions have had any effect on the target audience.

Last month, the government of Maharashtra introduced beef-detection kits for its police force to enable them speedy and efficient detection of the nature of any suspected meat. The move is expected to save lives and expedite the process of verification. It's unlikely though that the former will be achieved in any way. Here's why.

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