In a state where cow slaughter is illegal, at least 30 cows in a shelter were suspected to have died due to starvation, although the locals claim the actual number is as high as 200.
But that's not all.
The gaushala, as it happens, is run by a leader of the BJP, a party that has taken protection of cows to its heart, with its supporters unleashing murder and mayhem across the country on the slightest suspicion of any harm being done to the animal.
Harish Verma, who is in charge of the cow shelter since 2010, was arrested on Friday from Rajpur village of Chhattisgarh's Durg district after neighbours barged into his premises on noticing trenches being dug. They were greeted by the sight of piles of cow carcasses being disposed by burying them in the ground. Reports say some dead bodies were dug up by canines and feasted upon, leaving the area strewn with the remains.
According to The Indian Express, reporters found the shelter filled with cows that were barely alive, some too weak to even stand. The place, which allegedly housed 600 bovines instead of the 220 it was allowed to keep, was filled with an unholy stench.
Verma, however, initially claimed only 16 cows, which were old and infirm, had died when part of a wall had collapsed on them due to heavy rain. He also denied that the animals were starved of fodder. Later, after he was charged under sections 4 and 6 of the Chhattisgarh Agricultural Cattle Preservation act 2004, Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and Section 409 of Indian Penal Code, he changed his testimony, blaming the lack of funds from the state's Gau Seva Aayog as the reason behind his shabby upkeep of the cows.
The Gau Seva Ayog is supposed to give Verma ₹10 lakh per year for the maintenance of his charges but it hasn't, according to him, parted with most of the funds over the last two years. Officials, however, said that it was expected of the gaushala to be a self-sufficient revenue-generating unit instead of depending on such subsidies entirely.
Officials, who visited the spot to inspect the cause of the deaths, said the animals were definitely starved, some of them too weak to even eat when fodder was offered to them. While the feeble ones were put on a drip, the remaining bovines crowded hungrily around the food that was brought to them.
On Friday, hours before his arrest, Verma was surrounded by angry villagers and workers of the BJP's Yuva Morcha, who called him a "hatyara (murderer)". One refrain went thus: "Bhajpa ki naak kata di (He's made the BJP lose face)," The Indian Express reported.
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