Politics

Not ‘Vigilantes’, But Cow Protectors: Coastal Karnataka Takes On Smugglers, Using The ‘Power Of Law’

Cow protectors are now taking their fight against smugglers, who are often aided by the media, to a ‘constitutional’ level. (Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • With the media trying to paint cow protectors as ‘vile’, and smugglers as ‘food rights champions’, the former have now taken their fight behind the scenes and are using the law to prompt police into action.

    Cattle smuggling is increasingly becoming a game of one-upmanship by the minorities in their attempt to subdue those who believe in bovine sanctity.

    Illegal slaughterhouses are causing havoc in coastal Karnataka, upsetting agrarian life in general and the dairy industry in particular.

Even while Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘inclusive push’ has been dubbed by anti-Hindu forces as a ‘protectionist facade’, Muslim organisations in coastal Karnataka have woken up to the fact that the fight over beef now is not so much on the streets as it is behind the scenes.

Dakshina Kannada district is slowly witnessing a drop in conventional methods of cow protection, possibly due to the bad press cow protectors are receiving from an anti-Hindu, pseudo-secular media. While nobody who has even a faint understanding of the idea of India will deny that the country is largely agrarian, it is a natural corollary that respect for the cow will be integral to our ethos.

Mangaluru City Police Commissioner Sandeep Patil at a parade to identify cow smugglers. (Pic by Manju Neereshwallya) Mangaluru City Police Commissioner Sandeep Patil at a parade to identify cow smugglers. (Pic by Manju Neereshwallya)

But with a media that appears to be working in cahoots with anti-agrarian forces, and thus vilifying any attempt to protect the cow, gau rakshaks have taken the fight to a ‘constitutionally intelligent’ level.

The New Nature Of The Fight

A fact check undertaken by Swarajya has indicated that cow protectors are now using the law of the land, in conjunction with enforcers such as the police and the transport authorities, to nail cattle smugglers.

“We are now helping protectors of the law apprehend cow smugglers. Obviously, there cannot be theft without thieves, so we have sensitised the police about such designs. All we do is pass on information of cattle theft to the police, and urge them to act in accordance with law. Our network of cow protectors remains as strong as ever, but now we work along with the police to fulfill the aims of the law,” says Jagadish Shenva, general secretary of the state Bajrang Dal.

Cows at a slaughterhouse in Dakshina Kanada district. (Pic by Manju Neereshwallya) Cows at a slaughterhouse in Dakshina Kanada district. (Pic by Manju Neereshwallya)

State co-convener of the Gau Rakshana Prakoshta, Vinay L Shetty, told Swarajya, “It is not just the police we are sensitising but also the transport authorities. Cow smugglers have been altering the bodies of their vehicles, to escape attention. Even posh vehicles such as expensive SUVs are being used to smuggle cattle. We have given the police complete details about such smugglers and have expressed our strong objection to such disrespecting practices. Cattle thieves not only commit violations of road transport rules, but also abet stolen livestock movement, which is a violation of the eleventh amendment of the Motor Vehicles Act 2015.”

Cow protectors protest efforts to smuggle cattle in Dakshina Kannada district.  Cow protectors protest efforts to smuggle cattle in Dakshina Kannada district. 

Crime Research Bureaux Bare It All

According to the District Crime Research Bureaux of Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada districts in coastal Karnataka, and that of Kasargod in neighbouring Kerala, 817 cases of cattle theft and forcible snatching of cattle heads have been reported, out of which only 556 have been actioned in the last two years (2017-19).

The police, however, say that there could be many cases that have not been reported. Following the increase in thefts at the beginning of 2019, Police Commissioner of Mangaluru city, Sandeep Patil, had organised a ‘parade of cow smugglers’ and with the help of cow protectors, identified many of them.

Following this, the Udupi district police also held such parades at Karkala and Kundapura subdivisions where cow smuggling had been reported frequently and had been a cause for social disharmony. In all three parades, the cow smugglers were ‘counselled’ by the police in front of the complainants, and warned against engaging in such socially disruptive activities.

Cows being illegally transported in coastal Karnataka (Pic by Manju Neereshwallya)  Cows being illegally transported in coastal Karnataka (Pic by Manju Neereshwallya) 

Sandeep Patil, Udupi additional Superintendent of Police Kumarachandra and Superintendent of Police of Udupi Nisha James have delivered the tough message that police will act with an iron hand if smugglers continued stealing cattle.

All the three top officials attended the parades in Mangaluru, Kundapura and Karkala respectively, and warned cow smugglers that they would be booked under the Goondas Act if they did not mend their ways. A series of measures against cow smuggling is also on the cards , such as imposition of special monetary bonds to be furnished by the smugglers.

A Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader speaking on the phenomenon of cattle theft.  A Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader speaking on the phenomenon of cattle theft. 

In the meanwhile, several pseudo-secular writers had been projecting India as the ‘biggest exporter of beef’, in their attempt to paint cow-respecting governments in bad light.

Interestingly, disregarding agrarian concerns, the Mangaluru-based Dakshina Kannada Muslim Development Committee has asked the state government to float a cattle transportation company backed by police protection. Its convener, Rafiuddin Kudroli, said cattle trading was an ‘important livelihood’ of the Muslim community and it was the ‘duty of the government’ to protect their rights.

Cattle slaughtered at a riverside in coastal Karnataka (Pic by Manju Neereshwallya) Cattle slaughtered at a riverside in coastal Karnataka (Pic by Manju Neereshwallya)

He said beef was a ‘dietary mainstay’ of the Muslim community and that their ‘right to food’ was being stifled. He, however, did not seem concerned about the dietary, religious or occupational sensitivities of the rest of the population.

FM Nirmala Sitharaman Clarifies

In a video that is doing the rounds on YouTube, Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman has clarified that India was not exporting beef, and on the contrary, has banned its export. Sitharaman in the video clarifies in no uncertain terms that “cow, bull and calf meat are not exportable and India had imposed a complete ban on such export”.

The proponents of the “India-is-a-beef-market-leader” seem unable to distinguish between buffalo meat and beef, thus fuelling misinformation, say Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal leaders.

News reports that have spoken at length about the menace of cattle theft and slaughter in the region.  News reports that have spoken at length about the menace of cattle theft and slaughter in the region. 

Sharan P, the divisional head of the Bajrang Dal, said the only cow slaughter facility in Mangaluru was in Kudroli, where the licence from the City Corporation was to slaughter only 12 cattle per day, that too after certification from the veterinary surgeon.

“But the volume of beef that is available in the market was equivalent to that of 50 cows. The smugglers are entering the homes of farmers in remote areas and are forcibly taking away milch cows from the ‘Hatti’ (cowsheds). They are usually armed with lethal weapons and in many cases, threaten the farmers with physical harm in case they resist their moves.

Cattle Traders Appeal To SC

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, an association of cattle traders and transporters has appealed to the Supreme Court against cow protection rules that came into existence in 2017. The association has stated that the rules are being used to ‘seize’ cattle being transported. In response to the appeal, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice S A Bobde has directed the Central government to respond to the appeal.

The petition was filed by the Buffalo Traders Welfare Association on the ground that their cattle was being ‘forcibly taken away’ and sent to cattle sheds in the country. The traders, however, appeared to be trying to mislead the court over the definition of beef. “The appeal also does not specify if it was buffalo meat or beef,” said legal experts who are contesting the appeal.

The 2017 rules against animal cruelty and cattle slaughter, however, specify that the meat of cows, bulls and calves (notified as beef) are non-negotiable under this Act. The rules of 2017 have, however, not been passed by Parliament, as is required under various sections of the 1960 cow slaughter ban.

Docket For The Central Legal Team

Shenva, who himself is a legal professional, says, “We are preparing a docket for the central team of lawyers informing them of the cow theft in coastal Karnataka, which has become a bone of contention between the minorities and Hindus. There are instances when cow smugglers have even stolen milch cows like HF and Jersey from farmers, thus causing panic in the dairy industry.

The milk unions of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Goa, Hubballi and Dharwad have been complaining to the police about the systematic theft of their milch cows. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Gau Rakshana Prakoshta have appealed to dairy farmers to not sell their cows and bulls when they pass their productive age, and instead, give them to the regional gaushalas (cow shelters) of their respective districts.

Menace Of Illegal Slaughterhouses

The police have been cracking down on illegal slaughterhouses in the coastal region. In Mangaluru alone, there were a couple of dozen illegal slaughter houses. Many of them were in thickets in remote areas, or under bridges, or in the woods on the outskirts of cities like Chikkamgaluru, Hassan, Kodagu in Karnataka and recently in several pockets in Goa, point out VHP leaders.

Police in South Goa have already unearthed illegal slaughterhouses, while in places like Yellapura, Ankola and Joida in Uttara Kannada, activists have been keeping close vigil and with the help of police have brought efforts at illegal and stolen cow slaughter to nought.

In a bid to outwit the police, cow smugglers in Mangaluru have begun putting in place slaughter facilities inside their vehicles. Soon after they steal the animal, they start slaughtering them on the move and throw the waste into rivers, claim the activists.

The legal think tank of the VHP and the Prakoshta have cited Article 43 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which empowers citizens to bringing cow thieves to book. The law should be used to the fullest, they assert.

“Dakshina Kannada district and Mangaluru taluk have more than 12 sites of illegal cow slaughter. Chembugudde, Kannuru, Jokatte, Moodbidri, Ullal, Bengre, Kadaya in Uppinangady, Pottukere, Kelaginapete of Buntwal and a few other places are notorious for illegal cattle trade and slaughter,” says Shenva.

All these places and another 15 places in Udupi district and 12 places in Uttara Kannada have also been included in the advisory being sent to the central government.

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