Cow Vigilantes: Abusers of Humanity
At the inauguration of NTPC super thermal power project in Medak, Telangana Prime Minister Narender Modi lashed out at fake ‘cow vigilantes’. Supreme Court issued a notice to Centre and six states seeking their response on why self-styled 'gau rakshak dal' be not banned for allegedly creating disharmony among various communities and castes and indulging in mob violence. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A.M. Kanwilkar asked the central government and state government of Karnataka, Maharashtra Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to file response within three weeks. The writ petition is filed by congress leader Tahseen Poonawala, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and Shezad Poonawala appearing for petioner.
Cattle Slaughter in India
Cattle Slaughter in India is a taboo, because according to Hindu beliefs, cow is considered to be sacred animal, as it provides us with life-sustaining milk. Millions of Hindus worship and revere cows. The cow is also known as symbol of wealth, strength, peace, abundance and selflessness. Hindu religion gives cow, the status of Mother to the level of goddesses. Throughout the Vedic Scriptures there are verses which give impressions that cows should be cared and protected.
Laws in favor of Cow Protection
Article 48 of Indian Constitution mandates every citizen to preserve cow and milch animals. It is the fundamental duty of every Indian Citizen to have compassion for all living creature under Article51 A(g). In regard of these articles various laws are made to prevent exploitation of animals such as -:
Ø Whoever commits mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming or rendering any animal of the value of ten rupees or upwards shall be punished with two years of imprisonment or with or both Under Section 428 of Indian Penal Code.
Ø Whoever commits mischief by killing poisoning, maiming or rendering any animal of the value of fifty rupees or upwards shall be punished with five years of imprisonment or fine or both Under Section 429 of Indian Penal Code.
Ø Animal sacrifice is illegal in every part of the country. Rule 3, Slaughterhouse Rules, 2001.
Ø Conveying or carrying animals whether in or upon any vehicle, in any manner or position which causes discomfort, pain or suffering is a punishable offence under two Central Acts. Section 11(1) (d) Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (Transport of Animal) Rules, 2001 and Motor Vehicles Act 1978
The slaughtering of cows is not banned in States of Kerala, West Bengal and in seven other North Eastern states. Many illegal slaughterhouses are been operated in big cities like Mumbai. Cows are routinely shipped across provincial borders. There are 3,600 legal slaughter houses in India whereas 30,000 are running illegally.
Article 48 of the Indian Constitution, titled “Organization of agriculture and animal husbandry” mentions prohibition of slaughtering of cow, calves and even other milch and draught cattle. It also mentions that, state should take steps to preserve and improve breeds. Apparently, Article 48 comes under Part IV of India Constitution which is ‘Directive Principle of State Policy’ which means there is no such boundation to ban slaughtering and eating of cow. There are around nine states where killing of cow is not an offence. It will be unjust to call Article 48 “pro-Hindu” as Article 25 of our constitution allows everyone to practice and profess their own religion. It also allows Sikhs to carry and wear Kirpans as it is included in the profession of the Sikh religion. There are many such articles like the Prohibition of intoxicants (may be you call it as Pro-Islam, Pro-Buddhist (Hinayana), Pro-Jain ), Promotion of international peace (Pro-Hindu (Vasudeva Kutumbakam), Pro-Buddhist (Ahimsa) etc. Like in Muslim Personal Laws four marriages are legal where as more than one marriage (if the spouse is living) according to Hindu Marriage Act is an offence Under Section 494 of Indian Penal Code. There are various such biased laws in the name of religion which are completely based on beliefs. Though our constitution does not favor any religion but it respects every religion. The forty-second amendment has inserted the word ‘Secular’ in the Preamble. Secularism does not mean that India is an atheistic or irreligious state, but it is neutral in matters of religion. So, considering one article and calling it to be Pro-Hindu is constitutionally, an invalid argument.
Goons or Cow Protectors?
“I would not kill a human being for protection of cow, as I will not kill a cow for saving a human life, be it ever so precious” – Mahatma Gandhi
In State of Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, if somebody is caught killing cow or selling their meat he/she will be imprisoned for 7 years. The imprisonment is 10 years for cow slaughter in Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. Making matter worse, the cow protection has now been linked to destructions. Various others laws are made by State Government to protect the interest of Hindus. But still, there are groups of people, especially in North-India who are acting as ‘cow vigilantes’. They address themselves as saviors of cows. These vigilant groups have tried themselves to enforce cow slaughter laws. The ‘gau rakshaks dals’ from past few months following a series of incidents in which beef-eaters and those indulging in cow meat business have been targeted. People forget there are laws in our country, enacted by states which are applicable to cow slaughter. Laws are entitled to be enforced by authorities, not by the mob. On the name of cow vigilantism, something else is happening. Even Gandhiji’s ideas for the protection of cows are targeted, but his idea of social awareness and motivation are still not achieved.
Recently, two hundred cow activists brutally attacked five people in Alwar who were transporting cow, among which Pehlu Khan (55) died and others got injured. Victim’s uncle told BBC “he was not a butcher but a cattle farmer and he had bought the cows for dairy business”. Khan was carrying six cattle and was returning to his home in Haryana when the mob intercepted his vehicle.
In September 2015, a Muslim man was lynched from the village near Delhi after being accused of storing beef in his fridge. Don’t Muslims have any right over a cow or its milk?
Last year in July, seven members of Dalit family in Gujarat involved in leather trading business were attacked and brutally assaulted. Four of them were stripped half naked, tied them to car dragged for a kilometer and then beaten up with iron sticks and rods. Their fault was that they were found skinning the carcass of a cow, bought from neighboring village. Gangs of ‘cow protectors’ have killed around 10 people in past two years. In all the cases, these cow protectors record the videos and make them viral on social media. The fact is, that, these cow protectors fearlessly record their brutal crime and circulate it publicly. The question is, ‘who gave license to these cow protectors to kill or assault anyone?’
Violation of Article 46
Article 46 protects the educational and economic interest of the weaker section of society and the section continues that the state shall also protect them from social injustice and all forms exploitation. This directive principle makes it clear that state has solemn responsibility to protect the rights of Muslims and Dalits. The link between cows and Dalits is well known. From centuries skinning dead cow and selling their skin to leather-makers and hides to tanners is a profession of Dalit community. People don’t understand that cows are sacred but not immortal; someone has to dispose of their carcass when they die of natural cause. Even they burry and cremate their remains. Predominantly, they are cleaning waste from the society and in return they get nothing, but cruelty. The cow vigilant groups are also exploiting their ‘Right to Livelihood’. These incidents have heightened the sense of vulnerability felt by people who do not share ‘vigilantes’ reverence for cows. Dalit community is also facing economic challenges for some groups. Farmers who raise their cows with respect may not afford to care when the cow gets too old to produce. At that time, they secretly sell their cows to local butcher who take those cows to states where slaughtering is allowed. Scared farmers from the present environment are being driven into debt due to caring of old cows. After Gujarat case, farmers are increasingly declining to dispose of the cow carcass. A group of Dalits asked upper caste Hindus ‘if cow is your mother, why don’t you bury her?’
The BJP government should take steps immediately to eradicate the increasing of cow slaughter vigilantism, if they do not want to lose next elections in the state of UP, Rajasthan and Haryana. Organizations such as ‘Gau Raksha Dal’ should not only be banned but should be prosecuted for extortion and abduction with the intent to grievous hurt and wrongful confinement. This should be State Government’s duty to take the steps, in case of violation of any forms of cattle laws. Hindu Chauvinism for cow should be curbed to eliminate crime.