Cow trafficking and slaughtering are words which don’t exist for many Indians, but visit the east and you would encounter the harsh reality — it (cow trafficking) is a regular affair, and a lucrative business for smugglers and butchers. This is precisely the reason why country’s total cattle population declined from 20.45 crore in 1992 to 19.90 crore in 2007.
It is sad but also true that ‘Mother’ Cow Struggles For Existence
It is sad that cows are battling for life in India, a country where they are regarded as sacred and worshipped by majority. Our Vedic scriptures, which refer to them as ‘mothers,’ attached great importance to cows, and encouraged people to value as well as preserve them. Even Mughal emperors such as Akbar were against cow slaughtering — the fact was highlightedduring a hearing on The West Bengal Animal Slaughter Central Act, 1950. “Mughal Emperor Babar saw the wisdom of prohibiting the slaughter of cows as and by way of religious sacrifice and directed his son Humayun to follow this. Similarly, Emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Ahmad Shah, it is said, prohibited cow slaughter,” the Supreme court had said.
Cow traffickers spreading their wings across India
The network of cow smugglers is spread across different states. According to local estimates, about 20,000 to 30,000 cows are smuggled to Bangladesh every day. The smuggling reaches its peak during Eid-ul-Zuha (Bakrid). From Bangladesh, they are exported all over the world, especially the Middle East, where beef is in huge demand. The route traffickers take for illegal export of cow is as follows: Cows from UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and states as far as Haryana and Punjab are first transported to West Bengal, from where they are smuggled to Bangladesh through Murshidabad, the bordering district of India and Bangladesh.
On August 29, about 2000 cows stuffed in 100 trucks were caught in Govindpur (Jharkhand). The trucks, which were carrying cows from the neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand for being sacrificed on the occasion of Eid-ul-Zuha (Bakrid), were on their way to West Bengal. These trucks, jam-packed with cows, were found by the volunteers of Akhil Bharatiya Gau Raksha Mission, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and BJP activists.
Holy cows facing the worst in West Bengal
In Bihar, export of cows for any purpose is banned. In Muslim-dominated Jammu and Kashmir, there is a punishment of up to 10 years of imprisonment, if someone is found guilty of cow slaughter. Even possession of flesh of slaughtered animals is a punishable offence with imprisonment up to one year. Transport of cows outside Jammu and Kashmir for slaughtering is also prohibited.
Sadly, the West Bengal police and administration isn’t taking any stern action in this regard. The Akhil Bharatiya Gau Raksha Mission activists allege that the West Bengal police behave rudely whenever they approach them to lodge complaint. According to them, when their activists rescued some cows in Kolkata’s Lalbazar, police threatened to arrest them under non-bailable sections. Now, the big question that arises is: Is the state police under some ‘external pressure’ not to act against the perpetrators?
There surely seems to be some connection. The West Bengal government‘s sheer apathy towards cow slaughtering has been witnessed during several occasions. For instance, the Bengal government used the provision granted in the 1950, West Bengal Animal Slaughter Central Act*, to allow cow slaughter on Eid-ul-Zuha (Bakrid). After this relaxation, more than one lakh young and healthy cows get slaughtered in Kolkata every year on this occasion.
The Calcutta High Court intervened and struck down the exemption provided by the state government in 1982. The Bengal government and butchers took the matter to Supreme Court, which upheld the High Court’s judgment. But, in spite of the court order, the West Bengal administration hasn’t taken any concrete measures; except for cosmetic steps like publishing advertisement in local newspapers.
The Animal Husbandry Department of the Government of India says that in West Bengal the contempt of Supreme Court judgement is going on since 1994. “Any amount of follow-up action by the animal welfare organisations to persuade the state administration have not achieved the desired results. On the contrary, some peaceful agitators pleading with the administration for compliance with the Supreme Court order were rounded up and put behind bars on the occasion of Eid-ul-Zuha (Bakrid) in the year 2002.”
Better fate awaits cows
Except for West Bengal and northeastern states, other states have been making effort to save cows. The action was seen across the nation in 1982, when the erstwhile Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, wrote a letter to chief ministers of 14 states, asking them to enforce the ban in letter and spirit. Sadly, the ban has remained only in ‘letters’ and never in ‘spirit.’
With the Narendra Modi (@PMOIndia)-led government in power at the Centre, one can hope that stern action would be taken against the smugglers. After all, Modi had talked about the issue during his election campaign and promised to take care of farmers and their cattle. He ruthlessly attacked the UPA government for ‘pink revolution’ and increase in export of meat, including beef, while his supporters chanted Modi ko matdaan, Gai ko jeevandaan slogan.
However, after coming into power, we have neither heard nor seen any action from the BJP government on this front yet. Agreed, that government has several high-priority tasks at hand, but cow prevention is also the need of the hour—not because of the religious sentiments attached, but for maintenance of the ecological balance. If slaughtering of cows goes on rampantly, they may get to the verge of extinction, which would disturb the ecological chain.
* The West Bengal Animal Slaughter Central Act, 1950: The act was passed to “control the slaughter of certain animals with a view to increase the supply of milk and to avoid the wastage of animal power necessary for improvement of agriculture. Section 2 lays down that the Act applies to animals specified in the sched-ule. The schedule to the Act covers bulls, bullocks, cows, calves, male and female buffaloes, buffalo calves and castrated buffaloes.” However, the Act also has a provision for lifting the ban for religious, medicinal or research purposes.