Bajrang Dal District Convener of Shamli district in Uttar Pradesh, Vivek Premi, is known in his area for battling illegal cow trafficking, and was locked up for over 6 months with the stringent National Security Act (NSA) slapped on him by District Magistrate and approved by Governor, State & Central Home Ministries and advisory board of Uttar Pradesh. It was revoked after about 6 months, after which he applied for bail and got released.
Vivek Premi is a practicing Hindu who talks mostly in Hindi; he could not take his last exam of BA LLB 2nd year, because he was arrested a night before the exam date in June 2015 for apprehending a calf thief in Shamli (who had pointed a country made pistol at Vivek, as mentioned in the FIR), and was released only in Jan 2016. I spoke to Vivek about the much maligned activity of gau raksha which is termed by many secularists as ‘cow vigilantism’. Some self-proclaimed liberals like Saba Naqvi have even equated it to terrorism, calling ‘cow terror’ more dangerous than Islamist terror and radicalization fanned by the likes of Zakir Naik.
Here is my interview with Vivek Premi –
Q. – You are in the news again for getting death threats recently. I heard that you have filed an FIR too, tell us more about these recent threats.
Vivek Premi – Yes, I have recently received two threats on Facebook, one threatening to kill me if I don’t convert to Islam and the other is from an imam’s id of local mosque in Shamli, threatening to strip me and beat me. It seems that the local imam has already filed an FIR in the police station claiming that somebody has created a fake id in his name on Facebook. I hope the police does a thorough inquiry of these threats. I have shared the news clip of the threats and my FIR with you.
Q – As clear from one threat, some Muslims are vengeful because you had beaten this man Riyaz for stealing a calf in June 2015 and paraded him through the town. Why didn’t you call the police then? Why did you choose to take law into your hands?
Vivek Premi – We got a quick call that 3 guys were trying to steal the calves from a goshala. To be honest, at that time, a number of instances had just happened when we had called the police but the police came too late, when the thieves and the calves/cows were long gone. These incidents of stealing a couple of calves here and there had increased a lot and I thought I had to do something. So I didn’t waste any time and reached the spot after calling a few other gau rakshaks. Once we reached and confronted them, we realized they were carrying country made pistols which they pointed at us to scare us. Two of them escaped and I caught Riyaz. I decided to parade him till the local main crossing while announcing that nobody should steal cows and calves and defy cattle protection laws in Shamli; later the police came and arrested him. Please note that we didn’t cause any serious injury to the cattle thief; there was a message that had to go that local Hindus suffer when cows are stolen and it hurts us when they are smuggled for slaughter. That message was a need of the hour since the state government and the police do not enforce the cow protection laws strictly and many Hindus suffer. I paid for it by getting slapped with NSA which shall always be in the records and hamper my future prospects.
Q- Do you regret what you did?
Vivek Premi – No regrets, but I paid for it. Now I can’t pursue any regular/ classroom studies because I’ll have to go for classes at the same time everyday and I know that is a huge security giveaway.
Q – So you mean that the threats are really serious? Have you been threatened and/or attacked anytime earlier?
Vivek Premi – Yes, these threats are serious because I have been threatened and attacked earlier too. But I have learnt to live with death threats. I realized the seriousness of Hindu causes when I attended the ‘Prantiya Shaurya Prashikshan Varg’ ( State Training Program/Camp) of Bajrang Dal in 2006, 10 years back.
In April 2016, I got a threat that somebody will hang my head from a crane on a city crossing. I had filed an FIR then. Then just after a week, I was attacked. I usually come back from Bajrang Dal office by the time market shuts down for the day. That day I was late and as I was coming out of office, a friend came. So we stood outside the office chatting for a few mins. Just as he was telling me that i shouldn’t stay in the office till so late, a gang of 15 to 20 men on bikes stopped in front of us. They were carrying rods and one of them pointed at me and said ‘yahi hai’ (this is the one). My friend has a licensed pistol and thankfully he was carrying it with him at that time. He pointed the pistol at them to scare them – it was enough to hold them still for a few moments. Then they leapt at us; by then, I had figured out a thin lane to run in. We ran into the thin lane with all our strength. We couldn’t have fought them, they were many and there is a Muslim area adjoining the location, it would have taken them only few minutes to become 50 from 15.
Q – What did the police do about this attack?
Vivek Premi – I didn’t go to the police post this attack attempt. How many times should one go to the police? I had already filed an FIR after the threat in April. I just didn’t bother. Now these recent threats again. This time I have filed an FIR. There hasn’t been any arrest till now for the threat I received in April.
Q – You know very well that the entire English language media calls the gau rakshaks as murderers and thugs. Even many BJP supporters disagree with the way you guys sometimes take law into your hands. Why must you keep arms and resort to violence?
Vivek Premi – The truth is that only one side of the issue is presented to English news readers. Most Hindi news readers still know the real issues on the ground. You really think that me and my friend would have been saved if he didnt carry his licensed pistol that day? Kairana, which was recently in news is in Shamli district only. Hope you know how Hindus are usually targeted once there is a sizeable increase in Muslim population in an area. Many people sell their properties for peanuts just to run away to safety. There is a systematic alienation brought upon Hindus in areas with high Muslim population. Regarding gau raksha, if most of us will not keep arms, we all would be dead or seriously injured by now. We are not talking about sitting in offices and framing more laws. We are talking about saving ourselves because every attempt by us to stop cow trafficking is met by hostile attitude and violent backlash in multiple ways.
In February this year, VHP leader in Agra, Arun Mahaur was murdered because he was trying to stop cow smuggling and slaughter. Last month in July, a gau rakshak lost his eye in Saharanpur for trying to stop cow trafficking, he struggled in hospital for 3 days. Laws on cow protection are just there in the books, enforcement on ground is minimal because of widespread corruption and Islamist onslaught. I heard that when NSA was revoked from my case, the news did many rounds in English media hinting that the central home ministry might have gone soft on a man who took law into his hands; but the same English media is not bothered about the core issue of rampant cow smuggling and animal rights, forget publishing the number of threats and attacks on people like me.
Q – Most English media reports deny that there was a cow smuggling angle to Arun Mahaur’s murder. How does one come to know what’s the truth? Why not push police and politicians to curb cow trafficking?
Vivek Premi – Imagine the scene that would have been created if police accepted that Arun Mahaur’s murder was due to his very strong and serious attempts to stop cow smuggling and slaughter. The only way to know the truth is to go and speak to the people living in such areas. In UP, the government is not very sensitive to Hindu beliefs and the police is quite corrupt. To be honest, from the junior most police employee to the senior most police officer in the hierarchy, almost every second person gets a share from the money earned through cow trafficking. I know this is a very politically incorrect statement, but this is the truth.
So many times it has happened that we have informed police on whereabouts of a vehicle carrying cows illegally, and the vehicle speeds up or changes the route after being informed by the police. Hilariously, many times the police starts honking half a kilometer before and the vehicle realizes the danger and speeds away. Many times, we are told by police to not follow the vehicle and they will handle it, but ultimately the news comes that the vehicle couldn’t be caught. In certain areas, the police is even scared to take action against individuals indulging in cow trafficking.
Even if police catches a vehicle, most accused are booked under Animal Cruelty Act instead of Cow Slaughter Act. Bail is easier in the former but only HC can grant bail if booked under Cow Slaughter Act. Then, Hindus are prevented from opposing cow smuggling by getting various false cases slapped on them, which keeps them engaged in legal proceedings and they are not able to fight for cow protection. So you see, the whole system seems hostile to the issue of cow protection and our laws are openly flouted.
Q – Do you think the state government is apathetic to the cause of preventing cow trafficking and slaughter? And why?
Vivek Premi – The state government doesn’t do much for the sake of politics of minority religious appeasement. Also, there is corruption in everything. Inspite of constant follow ups with police, the law enforcement is disappointing. And it is not only disappointing for cow protection, it is disappointing overall for protection of Hindus.
For example, there is another case on me for taking out a bike rally on Hindu new year, on 8th April 2016. Just when everything was ready, we were denied permission for it on the night of 7th, inspite of the fact that we had clearly mentioned that it would be a peaceful rally celebrating our new year with ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ banners on bikes. Even if they were worried about my police record, they could have deployed policemen for supervision. The whole world celebrates the Western new year on 31 Dec night, but we have to take permission for taking out a peaceful bike procession for celebrating Hindu new year. Anyway, we still went ahead with the rally. As we passed through the Muslim areas of Mohalla Rajowala and Kalandarshah, Muslim crowds filled the streets and all carried arms. The situation became so sensitive that PAC police had to do a flag march to disperse everybody. We were arrested for taking out the rally, and the police claimed in the court that Sec 144 was applied in the city that day and we had flouted it, of which general public had no information in reality. It was also claimed that the area residents found the banners of ‘Bharat mata ki jai ‘ objectionable to which our reply was ‘If this is India, how can Bharat mata ki jai be considered objectionable’. And in that case, they should give it to us in writing that those particular areas fall in Pakistan.
Anyway, the case is still on. So, religious appeasement and massive corruption don’t let the UP government take appropriate actions.
Q – A lot of intellectuals say that the issue of cow has merely become a political agenda and may be Bharat should leave the issue of cow protection behind? What do you think about this view? And do you think that Hindus who rear cattle / cows are themselves becoming apathetic to protecting them once the cows become old or stop giving milk?
Vivek Premi – Bharat should not and cannot leave the issues of cow behind. They are a part of our belief system. Politicians will do politics on every issue. However, I do agree that some Hindus are now themselves selling old cows for money, obviously they will end up getting slaughtered then. There are many reasons for it. People are not able to afford keeping old cows/ cattle till the end of their lives. There is little support from the community nowadays. The free gauchar bhoomi (cattle grazing land) allotted by every state government for every village / town has reduced because of unauthorized occupation / encroachments etc. Even when we rescue the cows from trafficking, it is a challenge to rehabilitate them sometimes. It is sad that state support and community support is not as much for our cultural beliefs. It should be, because cow as such is the most useful animal, even when it grows old.
Q – I don’t see an end to this fight, I mean how long do you think that this fight to protect cows (and cattle) can go on? People comment that cow lives are more important to gau rakshaks than human lives. The typical left liberal mindset says that doing away with cow protection laws may prevent violence and save some human lives. What do you have to say about it?
Vivek Premi – This fight will go on till the time every Hindu doesn’t stand up for his / her cultural and religious beliefs, and this is actually a noble cause. Why should cows / bulls / even buffaloes, who serve us in so many ways, be slaughtered? We even have a festival dedicated to cow worship, Gopashtami. The way they transport the cows illegally, is gross animal abuse. Sometimes, many of them die in transportation only. Don’t we have wildlife protection laws? Our belief system is that nature and animal life are also sacred, the cow especially so.
And it is not only about cow. It is about all our beliefs. If we give up on cow, they will come after something else. Love jihad, land jihad, conversions, attacking idol worship, the issues just don’t end. Every Hindu should stand up for his/her beliefs, our beliefs don’t harm anybody to begin with. The definition of success has become too materialistic these days. We all want our children to become Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan but we never tell them to become like Swami Vivekanand or Bhagat Singh. We Hindus need to wake up. And we shall keep fighting for cow protection.
(Disclaimer : The incidents and views expressed by Vivek Premi in this interview are totally his own, and the interviewer and HinduPost are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of the same. We thank him for speaking to us.)