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Indian cow-protection vigilantes putting animal life ahead of fellow humans

The whole world is aware that the cow is a sacred animal for a majority of the Indian community. However, I never would have envisioned that deadly politics would be employed in the name of one of the most loved animals – so loved, that they are often given the name of a Mata (a mother, often used as a respectful form of address for a woman).

In the past two years, news of violence have been increasing and the sole reason for this, and the common word in all headlines, is the cow. Who can forget the merciless killing of 52-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq from Bisara village, Dadri in Uttar Pradesh? Some politicians, or rightly called ‘power hopefuls,’ encouraged a mob to kill a man who was eating meat at his home on the auspicious occasion of Eid. He was killed because a priest announced that Ikhlaq was allegedly eating beef, however, the first reports completely denied that this was the reason that led to his death.

Not long after, another incident happened in Jharkhand’s Latehar district where 32-year-old Mazlum Ansari and 13-year-old Imteyaz Khan were severely beaten up, before they were both found hanging from a tree. It is said that the former was threatened several times by the illegal cow vigilantes, who wanted him to give up cattle trading. The Chief Minister, instead of promising the grieving families to catch the culprits, offered one lakh rupees to both the families (the equivalent of about $1500). However, the financial assistance was angrily refused by them as justice would not be served in that way, nor would it bring back their loved ones.

The Hindu published a report related to the same state, where another three people were beaten up brutally and later on lynched by a blood-thirsty group of cow vigilantes. This was the second of such incidents in a short period of time related to cow protection. Another report highlighted that some self-proclaimed cow vigilantes have beaten up a man in Haryana, who was going to the market sell meat (which wasn’t even beef) in his vehicle; the group almost made the man unconscious while filming their ‘valiant’ act. The question is, is it really an act of gallantry if twelve men are beating up a helpless man? A similar report came from Jharkhand again, where infamous cow vigilantes forced a man to eat cow excretion, because they were carrying meat with them (again, it wasn’t even beef).

However, this cheap politics in the name of the cow has become the subject of hypocrisy. At one point, it was reported that more than five hundred cows starved to death in a shelter in in the state of Rajasthan, a state which boasts the establishment of a cow urine laboratory. The shelter houses more than 8000 cows, and the veterinary doctor revealed that all the cows were dead due to starvation and neglect.

These chest-thumping cow vigilantes, who do not hesitate to kill human beings over alleged matters, were completely absent from protecting their beloved cows with the pretext of not getting their salary. This clearly indicates, that cow protection is just a matter of monetary gain. If cow protection does not yield any financial benefits, protection of the cow will become a subject of neglect.

An in depth analysis of all such violent actions for the sake of so called cow protection suggests that cow protection is one of the ways to shift the focus of people from so called religious entities, so that they will not ask for ‘promised development’ by the ruling party. It has been observed that whenever the time of elections in any state approached, such issues were intentionally brought to the forefront, and subsequently, violence erupted from so called protectors of religion. Many similar ways have been adopted by such vigilante groups in the past too, shifting the focus from necessary developments in their cities to the protection of cows, in an attempt to polarize people. Once it is achieved, all such issues are forgotten. With all these disturbing events, the silence of the Prime Minister is the most exasperating thing that anyone could experience.

It seems that all those groups have taken responsibility to spread hate among their fellow citizens and it could be said that they have a tacit understanding with those in places of power. Whatever the reason, violence in the name of protecting anything should come to a stop, otherwise it will damage the very fabric which is holding all Indians together. In order to make India a powerful and developed country, we need to work for our country together and should also learn to tolerate others. By dividing people in the name of religion, caste and language, we cannot reach any form of success and will always struggle to be united.

Asif Khan

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