There’s the illegal beef trade that thrives in the dark. And then there are cow protectors, or gaurakshaks, who stand tooth and nail against cow slaughter.
While most of the focus, and disproportionately so, gets directed towards mob lynching, the war on gaurakshaks remains steadfast.
This won’t be a cakewalk for the cow vanguards. Still, they are standing firm, unfazed.
Separating the cow from the Hindu has been Islamists’ dream for centuries. How the killing of cows and beef eating was used as a tool for humiliating Hindus, since at least the time of that ‘great’ Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, is well documented by historians. So it was only natural that protecting the cow, or “gauraksha”, became a symbol of resistance against Islamic imperialism.
Despite the history, cow protection didn’t get a fitting place in the Constitution of India. Instead of a right, it was slotted as a directive principle – a duty of the state. From this flowed various pieces of legislation in states that prohibited cow slaughter.
After a brief hiatus since the country’s partition, the cow has again become a rallying point for Hindus, thanks indirectly to the White Revolution and more directly to the recent Pink Revolution. The proliferation of cattle gave way to the slaughter industry and the ecosystem around it. Demand exceeded supply. Theft of cattle became inevitable. As the state failed to rein in the meat mafia, local Hindu communities came together to put a stop to the menace. The larger goal of dharma raksha and the historical context of gauraksha was not lost on them. This is the backdrop through which we must understand the evolution of assorted, modern cow vanguards.
But, fortunately or unfortunately, that’s the nature of a battle: you end up becoming more and more like the enemy you are fighting, especially if the enemy is more lethal.
Vigilance has been descending into vigilantism. This is unfortunate. The space vacated by the state is being occupied by all sorts of elements, not all kosher.
However, everything said and done, there is certainly an attempt by the intelligentsia, mainstream English media, academia, the so-called fact checkers, and lynching counters to bury the bigger picture, the ground reality, by barraging public with well-publicised, selective incidents that suit their narrative.
It would be farcical to suggest that all these players are conspiring and collaborating. For Islamists, everything sacred to Hindus must be defiled. Others are simply those who neither have knowledge of their history nor a sense of where they are going. But the interests of Islamists and the useful idiots are aligned in such a way that they are detrimental to the interests of the majority community.
And in the last few years, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Islamo-leftists have accumulated more successes than any other time in separating the cow from the Hindu. Think about it. What’s the ground reality today? thousands of people are working in illegal beef trade, most of them Muslims. They resort to all sorts of unlawful activities, including cattle theft and theft of the vehicles used for transportation. They are breaking who knows how many laws during such an operation. When confronted by either the police or locals, they fire back and attack with impunity.
Thousands of cases are lodged against the beef mafia in the country. Superintendent of Police (Alwar) Rajendra Singh told Swarajya that since 2016, “we have arrested around 800 people under RBA [Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995].” This is how dire the situation is.
But what’s being projected to the country? That there is an epidemic of lynching of Muslims by gaurakshaks. To be sure, any act of killing is reprehensible and must be dealt with full force of the law. But all sense of proportion has been lost in the pursuit of the agenda. According to IndiaSpend’s lynch-tracker, whose lack of neutrality is well known, only 93 incidents in the last eight years are cow-related and only slightly more than half (55 per cent) of the victims are Muslims. This, when they have compiled reports from only the English-language media, who are notorious for cherry-picking cow-related violence stories if the victim is a Muslim (read this twitter thread). Additionally, this list also includes incidents such as the Ballabgarh train fight, which was over a seat on the train but later mischievously changed to meat and then to beef.
That’s how the history of our present is being distorted right in front of our eyes while we bicker about distortion of the past. It’s because of this distortion that the Indian state is closer to passing a national law on mob-lynching than it is on cow-smuggling or slaughter.
What kind of an environment is being created? The situations in Auraiya and Alwar are eye-opening.
In a series of attacks this month, at least three temple priests were killed, their tongues cut off, for the crime of informing the police about cow-smuggling activities. Whatever the Delhi establishment says about gaurakshaks, people in the countryside wear it as a badge of honour. It’s worth is more than any monetary compensation. Sahdev Singh Yadav, a local farmer leader in Auraiya, told Swarajya, “They were killed for protecting cows. We want them to be declared gaurakshaks and their busts installed in the temple,” Yadav said. He also said that he is surprised at the brazen attack, given that the area was Yadav-dominated.
Well, he shouldn’t be surprised. See what’s happening in Alwar.
Alwar is a den of deadly cow smugglers with hundreds of cases where the criminals “brazenly steal, rob, shoot, and kill”, but an impression is being created that Alwar is a haven for mob lynchers, based on a handful of incidents where villagers have assaulted Muslim men on a suspicion of cow smuggling.
The spate of lynchings has been blamed on gaurakshaks as a community. The reality, however, is that these cow-vanguards play a critical role in keeping vigilance against the beef mafia. SP (Alwar) Singh has acknowledged their contribution in helping the police nab criminals in an interview to Swarajya. “Gaurakshaks help us,” he said.
But what’s their situation today? Gaurakshaks are feeling dejected at how the media is demonising them and portraying cow-smugglers as benign farmers. Naval Kishor Sharma, Alwar's best-known gaurakshak, told Swarajya that lost in the din around Rakbar Khan – the alleged victim of mob lynching in Alwar – is the fact that villagers apprehended Rakbar between midnight and 1 am. “They have just tied a cow outside his house to portray him as a dairy farmer. But what kind of a dairy farmer takes cows in the dead of the night, that too non-milch cows?” he told Swarajya.
They are incensed that hefty compensation is being given to smugglers, referring to the Haryana government's move to award Rs 8 lakh to Rakbar's family. No such largesse is showered on farmers or gaurakshaks injured or killed in a clash with smugglers, they say.
They wonder why the state did not carry out an investigation before handing out such a huge compensation.
It's not just organised gauraksha dals (associations) but even independent dairy farmers who can't make sense of the din around mob lynching instead of cow smuggling.
Ramesh Sharma, a farmer and resident of Alwar, told Swarajya that in just a few years, smugglers took away nine of his cows from his house. His son, explaining the impact of the media war on gaurakshaks, said the farmers are wondering what to do if a cow thief strikes next. “We should stand with folded hands and let him rob us. If we resist, they will say mob lynching happened,” he said, fighting back tears.
The murder of Sadhus in Auraiya and attempts to kill the spirit of cow protectors in areas like Alwar reveal a two-pronged strategy to get rid of cow vanguards so that cow slaughter can be normalised over time. First is to threaten, assault, and kill the soft layer of informants by hard violence; second is to repel the hard layer of militant gaurakshaks by soft media propaganda, painting the whole cow-vigilance movement with the brush of vigilantism.
While Islamists and their enablers are trying their best, and have tasted success in their agenda to separate the cow from the Hindu, it won’t be a cakewalk for the cow vanguards. Still, they are standing firm, unfazed.
“When we go out in the field, we are never sure if we will come back alive. But we are fighting on the side of Dharma. Gaumata protects us. There is no question of ceding even an inch of ground,” assures Naval Kishor Sharma.