When Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched on the suspicion of hoarding beef, Bharatiya Janata Party member Sakshi Maharaj, a five-time MP from Unnao, commented that they are ready to kill and get killed for cow-protection. His 2015 comment isn’t an isolated incident. Many BJP leaders have batted against consumption of beef and taken various measures to stop slaughter of bovine animals.
When BJP came to power in Maharashtra, Haryana, or Rajasthan, enforcing a ban on cow-meat was one of their initial decisions. So, logically, the party should care about cow-shelters, which would be a step forward in protecting cows. But incidents in the past four years tell us that despite according a godly status to cows, the party has been found wanting in protecting cows on many occasions. Here are five such instances that show that the cow-protection call of the BJP is probably just rhetoric:
1. Jalore Gaushalas: In July 2017, gaushalas in the district of Jalore in Rajasthan saw the death of about 700 cows due to incessant rains, worsened by a dam breaking nearby. Due to the rains, the cows could not get up and they needed to be lifted and then tended. Due to a lack of proper fodder, swept away by flood, many cows died of starvation and weakness. Apart from death of about 700 cows, 3300 more cows and calves were injured. Pathmeda Trust, which runs a number of gaushalas in the state, alleged that the government didn’t help. Ironically, the state is ruled by the BJP and the state has a department dedicated to cow welfare also.
2. Hingonia Gaushala: The Jalore deaths could be the result of inadequate response to a natural phenomenon, but in the year before these deaths, Rajasthan saw worse. Over 500 cows died in just 10 days in August at the Hingonia gaushala in Jaipur, where about a 1,000 die in a month on average.
For a shelter claimed to be the ‘best’ in Asia, the cow-death statistics were pretty bad for the year. The state government said 8,122 cows had died between just January and July in 2016. The death rate had increased from 7.09 per cent in 2012 (INC government) to 11.31 per cent in July 2016 (BJP government), according to statistics released by the state government.
The deaths at the shelter appear to be more systemic. “There is acute shortage of green fodder, mineral and vitamins that can help the diseased cow recover. Here only dry fodder is provided that just helps them sustain,” a source at the shelter had told The Times of India in 2015.
Moreover, according to the statistics released by Hingonia Gaushala, about 90 cows die every day in Jaipur inside and outside the gaushala. Around 40 died daily on average at the then Jaipur Municipal Corporation-run gaushala. Not much far from Hingonia, Pehlu Khan was lynched in Alwar by some self-proclaimed gau-rakshaks in 2017, who accused him of smuggling cows.
3. Shagun Gaushala: The Shagun Gaushala in Durg of Chhattisgarh, another BJP-ruled state, saw the death of about 200 cows in a week last year in the month of August. The gaushala was owned by a local BJP leader Harish Verma who was then also the BJP vice president of Jamul nagar panchayat. According to a report by The Indian Express, similar conditions were prevalent at two other gaushalas run by Verma nearby.
The cows died because of a lack of care. State veterinary department officials said the deaths at the shelter were due to a lack of fodder and water.
If this appears to be a case of one bad politician, it wasn’t so. In November 2014, the Chhattisgarh Lok Aayog had flagged 27 gaushalas as errant, including the Shagun Gaushala, alleging they mismanaged government funds. Despite that, from 2015-16 onward, nearly 30 percent of funds disbursed by the Chhattisgarh Gau Seva aayog went to 25 of these gaushalas.
4. Kanpur Gaushala: About 28 percent of cows at a gaushala said to be the country’s richest died within 5 months last year, under the watch of the Yogi Adityanath government. Yogi Adityanath is known for tending cows even in his home of Gorakhpur, but perhaps he and his Deputy Chief Ministers were too busy to get the funds given to Kanpur Gaushala investigated. The cow deaths were basically due to improper fodder fed to cows. Perhaps it is another Chaara Ghotala.
Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is the patron of a gaushala in Pilbhit district. According to an India Today report this shelter and one in Sahajahanpur gaushalas are also affected by lack of fodder and space. “Earlier, we used to sell healthy cows and bulls to the farmers, the money was used to run the shelter, but with the new BJP government in place, farmers are scared to come here,” caretaker of the Pilbhit shelter told India Today.
5. Gaushalas in Haryana: Manohar Lal Kattar, the BJP CM of Haryana, has said in the past that Muslims can live in India but shouldn’t eat beef . He too doesn’t seem to be too keen on protecting cows otherwise though. A report of India TV shows that about 2000 cows are suffering in a government-run gaushala, all because the gaushalas turned into a wetland. In another gaushala named Shri Krishna Gaushala in Kurukshetra, about 25 cows lost their lives due to mismanagement.
These are a few instances, but they tell a story totally different from what the BJP would have us believe. The next time a leader of the party gives statements over cow-protection, perhaps we should ask him about the state of cow-shelters in the area they rule.
The author is a part of the Youth Ki Awaaz Writers’ Training Program.