The custodial death of Rakbar Khan in Alwar, Rajasthan has once again made the already boiling pot of ‘cow vigilantism’ come into news. News in India is most of the times a sore to the eyes. The shamelessness of a section of media to portray anyone working for cow welfare as a ‘vigilante’, ‘terrorist’ is out for all of us to witness. This sell-out media, which ironically is very vocal about farmer issues, observes an astute silence when it comes to the victimisation of farmers by cattle smugglers. Yes, cattle smuggling is a raging menace within the nation and from the nation to other countries. Didn’t hear about it before? Well, you need to change your choice of newspapers and news sites immediately.
From 2014 to 2017, there has been an estimated cattle seize of 5.32 lakh cattle along the Indo-Bangladesh border amounting to nearly 350 crore rupees. Make no mistake, all these to-be smuggled cattle were stolen from some farmer or dairy-man who depends on them for livelihood. The BSF plays a proactive role in ensuring that cattle smugglers are stopped from smuggling the cattle across the International Border, but just how many smugglings can they prevent? Such illegal smuggling of cattle, primarily cows, takes place in the mainland of India as well. There are continued incidents where truckloads of cattle being smuggled are seized. The fact of the matter is that the cow smugglers are a dangerous and violent group. They carry with them guns and weapons to stop anyone from coming in their way. And when someone does, they either physically harm them or even kill at times, as happened with two BSF jawans in 2017. If, unfortunately, the victims or ‘gau-rakshaks’ retaliate in the manner which the smugglers understand best, the biased media of this nation orchestrates a slander campaign and turns the victims of cow-theft into ‘cow-terrorists’. There are always two sides to a coin. Cow smugglers and those who take law into their own hands in the name of protecting cows are both the same, and equally condemnable. Strict laws need to not only be implemented, but also enforced for those who smuggle cattle and inflict cruelty on them. The State governments need to have an iron-fist approach and a no-tolerance policy towards cattle smugglers. The Centre on its own cannot curb this menace. The states must be active participants in ensuring that cattle are not stolen from farmers who need them the most. The cattle smuggling business is a huge one and many law enforcing agencies, primarily police officers often have a nexus with cattle smugglers. Such corrupt individuals must be identified and examples must be set.
For a detailed report on incidents of violence by cow smugglers, refer to this article.
The pot of cow vigilantism has been boiling since a Central government notification which banned the sale of cattle for slaughter in market places. This notification was in connection to the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to animals (Regulation of livestock markets) Rules, 2017’ Act. Basically it meant that it would be illegal for anyone to slaughter cattle at market places, or public places in general. A bunch of illiterate Twitter journalists and opposition leaders declared this to be a “Beef Ban” across the nation. Not one of them had gone through the notification, or even if they had, they clearly didn’t understand it, hence I call them illiterate. Even today, many do believe, with a deep sense of conviction that beef has been banned all across India.
Article 48 of the Constitution states that “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.” Many will argue that since it is a directive principle, hence it is not important to implement it. However, is it not the duty of the government to implement the directive principles? It clearly states that the citizens of India cannot approach the Court in matters of implementing directive principles but that it is the duty of the government to do so. This clause was not brought in after 2014. It has been existing ever since the Constitution came into effect.
However, we cannot ignore the fact that there are indeed certain hooligans who masquerade as ‘gau-rakshaks’ and carry out violence in the name of gauraksha. These goons and communal bigots have time and again been shunned and warned by PM Modi himself. However, since there has been no significant decline even after the warnings, the government and MHA are now taking stringent measures and issuing advisories to the states on how to tackle such violent incidents. The social fabric of the nation is damaged every time an unfortunate incident of lynching or mob violence occurs on the premise of Gau Raksha. Moreover, the biased and communal twists by the media add
fuel to fire. Statements like “Cows are safer than Muslims” by a politician accused of abetting the suicide of his wife are extremely distasteful, unfortunate and ironic.