The reality of Gau Rakshaks and media bias on reporting their side of the story

Times Of India group has been regularly publishing articles belittling cows and those who revere cows. Continuing the same trend, they published an article last week seeking to project Gau Rakshaks and Bharatiya laws against cow slaughter as a problem for cattle owners, cattle traders and farmers. This article in Economic Times is another case of using exceptional incidents (like stray cows destroying crops of farmers in certain districts) and extrapolating these as a norm throughout the country. 

It’s quite clear that they wish to legalise cow slaughter and they are entitled to their opinion. What is not okay is trying to do a backward analysis from an already decided position, cherry picking information that suits their narrative and ignoring information that would clearly demolish that narrative.

If this article was meant for rural folks, I would have just laughed it off for being plain stupid. However, it is meant to wrongly influence the perception of the urban dwellers who barely know about rural life and the place of cow in it. So being someone who spent his summer holidays at his grandfather’s farm in Alwar and presently doing organic farming himself, I feel it’s important for me to provide my perspective and demolish the faulty narrative in the Economic Times article.

Firstly, the article seeks to make a distinction between farmers/cattle owners/cattle traders and Gau Rakshaks and treat them as mutually exclusive groups. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Gau Rakshaks are not some separate category of people connected to a particular political party. They are local farmers and dairy producers who have formed self-help committees to protect their sacred wealth- Cows. For instance, one of the main accused in the Pehlu Khan lynching case that happened in Alwar happens to be an office bearer of a ‘secular’ political party. Even after the formation of Congress Government in Rajasthan, last week a cattle smuggler was beaten up by local villagers in Kishangarh Bas (Alwar). After his release from hospital he has been charged with various sections related to cattle smuggling.

It is really unfortunate that Times Group has never put out a piece on cattle smugglers and the menace they are, not just for farmers but also for urban folks due to their involvement in other criminal activities like carjacking and gun-running. To understand the problem of cattle smuggling and the related one of lynching, one needs to look at the example of Alwar, which has been the focus of media attention for 3-4 cases of lynching related to cattle smuggling. On one side of Alwar is Ahirwal belt dominated by Yadavs and areas like Rajgarh/Thanagazi/Bansoor dominated by Gurjars and Meenas. On the other side is Mewat Belt dominated by Meos (Muslims). Both areas extend into Haryana.

While the Ahirwal belt considers cows sacred, the Mewat belt is a stronghold of cattle smugglers supported by the local community. In fact, due to appeasement politics by ‘secular’ political parties, Mewat has become a den of criminals who have diversified into other crimes besides cow smuggling and slaughter.

Ferozepur Jhirka in Mewat is a hub of car robbers and even the police finds it difficult to conduct raids inspite of specific information about stolen cars. The constant struggle between the Ahirwal and Mewat belt has been going on for decades now. Farmers and Police on one hand and cattle smugglers on the other. It’s a shame that the exceptional cases of cattle smugglers being lynched by villagers makes big news but villagers and cops killed by armed cattle smugglers on regular basis reaches only the local newspapers.

Returning to the Economic Times article, it makes an assessment about the “unproductive” life of cattle.

Firstly, this mentality of slaughtering beings after they have served an economic or other purpose for humans is against humanitarian principles in general and Bharat’s ethos, in particular. We don’t do that to our dogs, horses and other pets and there is no reason why we should do it to our cattle. It is this mentality which has made us devour our “unproductive” forests, shed native varieties of “unproductive” crops that suit us digestively for foreign high-yielding varieties causing allergies, and replace organic farming with chemical based farming, giving priority to quantity over nutrition, purity and health.  

Secondly, the “unproductive” assessment is a dishonest one as it ignores the factors of Gauchar Bhoomi (public cow grazing land) being illegally occupied, the fact that Bharat has vast tracts of wasteland, Bharatiya cow milk is best suited for humans which now has also been accepted by the West in terms of A2 milk, and the traditional knowledge that cows have unique uses beyond dairy produce ranging from organic farming to fuel to medicine to panchgavya products like dhoop batti and soaps. The abhorrent suggestion that it’s okay to slaughter bulls because of preference of tractors is again faulty as the Bharatiya native breeds of cow are endangered. Bulls are very much needed for bull breeding programs to increase the pure breeds like Gir, Sahiwal, Tharparkar, Red Sindhi etc.

Therefore, instead of projecting cows as a menace for society, we would do well to understand how cows can play an important role even in contemporary society. We should feel lucky that we have a divine being in the form of cow that has so much to offer to humanity- nutritious milk, organic crops, fuel, medicines and many other products.

The solution to this constant struggle between cattle owners and cattle smugglers as well as stray cattle does not lie in legalizing cattle slaughter. Nor does it lie in whitewashing the deeds of cattle smugglers, thereby promoting a culture of crime in society and mushrooming of illegal abattoirs leading to contamination of natural resources and spread of diseases. The solution lies simply in upholding law and order-

1. Administration needs to take strict action against cattle smuggling and slaughter and discontinue its spread as an occupation only of a particular community. In a way, even the people of Mewat are victims as presence of such criminal culture leaves very little scope for those who want to get out of the vicious circle. Not surprising that Mewat belt is a very backward one inspite of prosperity all around it.

2. Law provides for Gauchar Bhoomi in every village. These are vast tracts of wastelands next to villages that have traditionally been grazing grounds for cattle. Most of this has been usurped by Land mafia. This bhoomi should be immediately freed and it’s this land where stray cows can graze. This Gauchar Bhoomi is critical for the sustainable and holistic rural economy with cow at the fulcrum.

Political parties and personalities will continue to play politics. However, it’s unfortunate when media starts playing politics instead of reporting things as they are. To all my urban friends, I request you to start consuming dairy products from Bharatiya Cow and appreciate nature’s unique gift to our country.

-By RAHUL SWAMI


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