Two incidents of cow slaughter in Rajasthan, the only state with a minister dedicated to the animal, have heated up a raging debate across the country over the killing of the bovines with hardline Hindu organisations pushing for a nationwide ban and minority groups resisting the move.
While 45-year-old Munnibai from Chittorgarh district on Monday became the first person in the state to be convicted of killing a cow, 26-year-old Shambhu Lal Raiger was arrested two days later in neighbouring Bhilwara in a similar case.
The incidents come at a time when cow slaughter and beef have emerged as hot button issues with several instances reported from parts of the country this year of people being attacked and sometimes killed over rumours of butchering or smuggling of cattle.
Killing of cows, bulls and bullocks as well as possession and transportation of their flesh is banned in Rajasthan where the BJP government set up a cow department two years ago for the welfare of the animal which is considered sacred by many Hindus.
Officials said Munnibai was sentenced to a year of rigorous of imprisonment and was fined Rs 10,000, but she is out on bail.
Raiger was arrested after a cow was found with its throat slit and some flesh hacked off the hind legs in Bhilwara district’s Dhakadkheri village on Wednesday morning.
“We cannot say for sure if the animal was slaughtered for its meat but some flesh was missing when we found the cow,” deputy superintendent of police Jivan Singh told HT over the phone.
Raiger, officials said, is a mine labourer and was inebriated at the time of his arrest.
Police said he dragged the cow into his one-room dwelling on Tuesday night and slashed its neck. After the animal died of blood loss, he skinned it and allegedly chopped off some meat before dumping the corpse in a village byway.
While a court sent Raiger in judicial custody for two weeks, security was tightened in the area to prevent communal flare-ups.
Cow welfare minister Otaram Devasi said he wasn’t aware of the Bhilwara incident but maintained that anyone found guilty of cow slaughter must be punished, irrespective of their social status.
The state government has approved amendments to its cow protection and anti-cow slaughter law, incorporating provisions to arrest and seize vehicles carrying the animal, he said.