The roadside biryani with succulent pieces of meat has always been popular with locals in Haryana’s Mewat, but the mouth-watering dish started making national headlines last week after police seized samples to test for the presence of suspected beef.
Alongside the biryani, the unprecedented police action has catapulted the state’s unique Cow Protection Police Task Force headed by a deputy inspector general-rank officer to the centre stage. The one-of-its-kind team is tasked with enforcing a ban on cow slaughter and smuggling.
Fearful of more trouble and a continuing police crackdown, biryani sellers are blaming the DIG. “Ek lady police officer ne sakhti kar rakhi hai (a lady police officer has imposed strictness),” they say.
But the 1998-IPS officer, Bharti Arora, is unflustered. “Cow is a significant issue as it is related to the sentiments of a large section of the population. Issues related to cow often lead to violence and create law and order problem, necessitating police intervention,” she says, defending her job as a ‘cow protector’.
Ironically, last week’s raids on the biryani stalls were not ordered by her, but by the state Gau Seva Aayog (Cow Service Commission). Officials say the commission ordered the district police to check for beef in the biryani sold in Mewat.
Besides being the chief cow protector, Arora holds two other responsibilities: She is the DIG for police welfare and training, and the principal of Motilal Nehru School of Sports at Rai in Sonepat.
But it is her role as cow protector and her cow protection force that are the subject of endless curiosity.
Arora, however, has taken the task in her stride and claims she is more than happy doing it. A disciple of Radha-Krishna, she turns sentimental when it comes to the subject of cows.
“Smuggling of cattle or cows is a crime of the highest order. We have found that those involved in these activities are hardcore criminals with several police cases against them. Money from cattle smuggling is also used for anti-social and anti-national activities,” she points out.
Her cow protection force is taking shape right now. Each district will have a dedicated team comprising an inspector, sub-inspector and assistant sub-inspector, two head constables and 12 constables to enforce the Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act 2015. The act bans cow slaughter, making it punishable with 10 years in jail and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
Right now, she functions from an office allotted in the administrative block of the police complex at Bhondsi, 15kms from Gurgaon, and coordinates with district police superintendents over the phone.
“I hold meetings with district superintendents of police and make them aware about importance of the issue,” she says.
Arora is required to keep a tab on slaughter houses, check sources of smuggling of beef and bovine animals, and prepare a database of those involved in cow slaughter and beef smuggling. As one of her aides puts it, protecting cows is no child’s play in politically-charged Haryana.