Over the past three and a half years, India has witnessed an increase in attacks on marginalised communities in the name of “cow-protection” (Gau Raksha). From Jammu and Kashmir to Karnataka and West Bengal to Maharashtra, it would be fair to say that the series of attacks have left few states untouched. The impact of these attacks has been especially felt in the state of Jharkhand, which has been witness to some of the worst attacks by right-wing goons in the name of ‘protecting’ cows. From the brutal murder in Latehar, including that of a minor, to the mob attacks in various parts of the state, the state has seen some of the worst attacks in the country. TCN’s Afroz Alam Sahil travelled across Jharkhand to understand and narrate how the terror spread by right-wing fundamentalists under the garb of protecting the cow has left a trail of blood in its path. In the fourth of the eight-part series, Sahil looks at how the terror spread by the so-called Gau Rakshaks has left even Muslims committed to protecting cows living in fear. These Muslims believe that the best way to save their lives is by doing nothing.
Ranchi, Jharkand: Over the past decade or so, “protecting cows” has become a synonym for inflicting violence and spreading hate against Muslims and have been used to create a situation where Muslims are presented as a natural enemy of every cow in India.
In such times, it is almost difficult to believe that there can be a Gau Rakshak Dals (“Cow Protection” Organisations) created and run by Muslims too. Yet, this is exactly the case in Jharkhand, which has a ‘Bharatiya Muslim Gau Rakshak Dal’(Indian Muslim Cow Protection Organisation). Yet, as fate would have it, even members of these Muslim Gau Rakshak Dal are now scared of the actions of the right-wing Hindu organisations like Bajrang Dal and have decided to take a backseat.
Qamar Siddipuri, a member of the Bharatiya Muslim Gau Raksha Dal in Ranchi, says that he joined the organisation out of respect for his Hindu brethren. “When cows are considered so sacred by our Hindu brothers and sisters, it is only natural for us to strive to protect cows. Doing this is also an attempt to respect the Ganga-Jamuni tradition of the nation along with fighting those who wish to destroy such a tradition. But now things have changed so drastically, nothing is in our hand. When the current Gau Rakshaks are out to kill Muslims, what can we do? Protect cows or ourselves?
Explaining the work of their organisation, Siddipuri says that they were involved in feeding cows that were found loitering on the streets. Impressed by their work, local “cow protection” groups including the Kamdhenu Gurukul Peetham Gau Anusandhan Kendra, Vanvasi Seva Ashram and the convener of Saptashri Vasundhara Bharati–Surendra Bharati Maharaj–had complimented their work. “They were ready to provide us with all the help we needed, but now no one dares to come forward…in front of the new-age Gau Rakshaks, even the old guard has decided to go silent,” Siddipuri adds.
The president of the organisation, Azad Ahmed, in a conversation with TwoCircles.net, says that one of the key objectives of the organisation was to take old cattle from farmers who had no use for them and hand them over to the state government as the farmers were unable to sell them. “We bought up to 700-800 cattle in the past but the situation got so critical that we had to stop. Who knows? Just as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis have been targeted across the nation, we could be next” he adds.
Anwaar, another member of the same organisation from Jamshedpur, says that across Jharkhand, almost every district has a market for the sale and purchase of cattle. “Who sells these cattle?” he asks. “There has been a ban on consumption of beef since 1958 in this region…so it is natural that even Muslims and Adivasis buy cattle for farming and/or dairy purposes. But when Muslims started trading in these cattle, it upset the Sangh Parivar. If you look closely, the role of business rivalries in almost all attacks in Jharkhand is extremely important and visible,” he adds.
Contrary to the perception that the so-called Gau Rakshaks protect cows, Anwaar says they instead indulge in stealing expensive cattle from Adivasis, Dalits and Muslims. “Then they go on to sell them at high profits,” he adds. “If you look at all the attacks in Jharkhand in the name of the cow, there are no cases where cattle have been found. So where do they disappear?” he asks.
The National Secretary of All India Minority Social Welfare Front, Babar Khan, says it is high time that the terror spread in the name of cow protection is stopped. “When there is a legal ban on killing cows, why isn’t this the responsibility of the local administration and the police? Why should vigilantes be in charge?” he asks.
Explaining the nature of the attacks, Khan says that even when someone buys a cow for the purpose of consuming/selling milk, they are attacked. “If you want an absolute ban on even sale/purchase of cattle, then ban the local markets. Neither will someone sell cattle nor will someone buy them. The so-called Gau Rakshaks keep an eye only on certain people; they attack them when they see it fit,” he adds.
All this is a far cry from what was envisaged by the Bharatiya Muslim Gau Raksha Dal, which had several units across Jharkhand. The organisation wanted to work for national integration.The organisation also made it a rule that if someone wanted to keep an old or ill cattle at home and take care of it, they must guarantee their safety in writing. Else, the cattle would be handed over to the nearest Gaushala. The members of the organisation were even organising public campaigns to create awareness for the same. However, given the current climate, the organisation believes that doing nothing is the best do. That, they believe, is the best they can do now to protect their own lives.