As the debate over beef ban splutters across the country, fear is constantly needling Muslim farmers who rear cows on the outskirts of Dehradun.
For ages, cow-rearing has been a major source of income for Muslim farmers in the state but they now say that it is no longer a smooth calling for them.
60-year-old farmer Haji Husain Ahmad from Sahaspur village, which is around 25 km from Dehradun, feels keeping cows is now a threat to his life.
“Minorities are tagged beef eaters and cow killers. Cow is a part of our life as well and a major source of livelihood. Hundreds of Muslim farmers are now feeling threatened for keeping cows,” Husain told HT.
The beef row has been simmering since a Muslim man was lynched last month in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri after accusing him of eating beef. It set off a chain of actions from Jammu, where and independent MLA was attacked for hosting beef party, to Kerala House in New Delhi which was forced to remove dishes made with buffalo meat from the menu.
Thousands of villagers in and around Dehradun were primarily Basmati rice farmers. However, as the Basmati cultivation shrunk over the years, the farmers switched to vegetables and other cash crops and continued to keep the cows.
The Muslim farmers complain that the police often harassed them, even when they take their cattle for grazing. They say farmers are harassed when they bring cattle bought from Punjab for use in their farm.
“We often enter the district via Ponta Sahib (Himachal Pradesh) while transporting cows and buffalos from Punjab for using in farms. It is seen as a clandestine move and we are stopped at the border and made to wait for hours,” Burhan Kasmi, another farmer, said.
Uttarakhand banned slaughtering of cows and bovines belonging to the cow family in 2007. However, a few incidents of cow smuggling from the state have come to light in the past.
Earlier this month, the police seized a fully air-conditioned truck at Dehradun-Mussoorie road packed with bovines.
Razia Begh, a High Court advocate, said the state government should come out with figures on how many bovines they had recovered after cow slaughter was banned in Uttarakhand.
“On the one hand, farmers belonging to minority communities feel threatened but on the other hand, no one knows what happens to the bovines recovered. Who knows whether they are rescued or sold further,” Begh said.