‘Gau rakshaks’ in Gurgaon hold Muslim migrants to ransom over beef

  • Leena Dhankhar and Abhishek Behl, Hindustan Times, Gurgaon
  • Updated: Mar 23, 2016 11:13 IST
Though there is no ban on sale of buffalo meet in Haryana, sources said the assaults by cow activists are creating a fear psychosis among the migrant population. (Reuters file)

Haryana’s beef ban is depriving Gurgaon’s Muslim migrants of buffalo meat, one of their most preferred and cheapest sources of protein. The reason: cow protection activists are allegedly targeting migrants and meat-sellers over suspicion of dealing in beef.

Meat-sellers say vigilante groups have become more assertive after the BJP government in the state last year introduced a stringent law that invites rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for cow slaughter.

Last year, at least eight cases of violence by vigilante groups were reported to police though many incidents are believed to have gone unreported for fear for persecution. In the first two months this year, one case of cow slaughter was registered.

Though there is no ban on sale of buffalo meet in Haryana, sources said the assaults by cow activists are creating a fear psychosis among the migrant population.

Gurgaon, one of the most affluent cities in India, has a large Muslim migrant population engaged as domestic helps, drivers, helpers, guards and mechanics, most of them staying in slum clusters at sectors 56 and 57.

This low-income group prefers buffalo as it is the cheapest among all meats, costing between Rs 80-100 per kg. In contrast, chicken costs Rs 180-200 per kg and mutton Rs 450 per kg.

Beef consumption has become a controversial issue in the country after fringe groups and self-styled protection groups started targeting people they accuse of slaughtering cow, considered sacred by Hindus.

In September, a 55-year-old Muslim man was lynched and his son seriously injured by a mob over allegations of cow slaughter at Bisada village in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri area, sparking a nationwide debate on religious intolerance since the BJP came to power in 2014.

Last week, two Muslim cattle-traders including a minor were hanged from a tree in Jharkhand’s Balumath. One among the five arrested over the incident is a member of a cow protection group.

“Few days ago, I was assaulted by ‘gau rakshaks’ (cow protectors) on Sohna road while I was supplying buffalo meat for a marriage party…Since that incident I have stopped visiting Mewat (from where buffalo meat is sourced),” said Muhammad Noor Hasan, who runs a meat shop in Ghata, a south Gurgaon locality. Besides Mewat, most of the buffalo meat for Gurgaon comes from Faridabad.

Rita Hussain, a domestic help working in DLF City Phase-4, said they cannot afford goat meat as it is very expensive.

“And we do not find it (mutton) tasty compared to buffalo meat. It is (also) a tradition to cook buffalo meat during marriages and other important family functions,” she added.

Bhani Ram Mangala, chairman of the Haryana Gau Sewa Ayog, a state government body, sided with the activists saying that meat sellers or buyers who transport in bulk should get a certificate from a veterinary doctor.

“Otherwise, how can we know what is being sold,” he added.

The pressure on meat sellers is likely to increase with the Haryana government setting up a panel in each district to tackle cruelty against animal -- Pashu Krurta Nivaran Samiti. The panel is headed by a deputy Commissioner.

“We will not only oppose cow slaughter but also cruelty meted out to other animals such as buffaloes because they are treated in an inhumane manner,” said Kuldeep Janghu, a member of Gurgaon’s cow protection group.

However, supermarkets and high-end restaurants continue to sell buffalo meat sourced from Mangalore at Rs 390 per kg.

Police said they will not allow any vigilante group to hold society to ransom but added that the beef ban will be strictly enforced in Haryana.

“We conduct regular meetings with the ‘gau rakshak dal’ and our teams carry out regular patrolling to thwart cow slaughter. No one is allowed to take the law in their hands,” said Hawa Singh, assistant commissioner of police (crime).

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