Picketing at roads, national and state highways leading towards the Bangladesh border, groups of young men not only thwart trucks and call the police, but sometimes release cows by hundreds.
Close on the heels of Maharastra enforcing a beef ban and neighbour Jharkhand preparing for similar legislative steps, Bhartiya Janta Party, BJP, has got active in West Bengal to take the first steps towards the same end.
The party has formed rapid action groups, RAGs – typically with 50 youths in each district – who are screening the national and state highways to prevent the ferrying of cows to Bangladesh for slaughter, a business estimated at more than Rs 15,000 crore annually.
At present, BJP leaders are using court directives regarding the transportation of cows regarding to stop trucks carrying cows towards the border and releasing the animals.
“In every district we have formed rapid action group. Their job is to picket on major roads, state and national highways, track trucks laden with cows going for slaughter and stop them,” said Subrata Gupta, convener of cow development cell of BJP in Bengal.
“Court has given specific guidelines on how to transport cows and for what purpose. Cows are trafficked to Bangladesh from Bengal illegally by the thousands everyday. So we are infact helping law, not breaking it. If sometimes cows are released it is the spontaneous act of the people,’ added Gupta.
BJP leaders have stated that the rapid action groups have been successfully formed in almost all districts of Bengal. In districts like South 24 parganas, North 24 parganas, Nadia bordering Bangldesh, as well as West and East Midnapore, Howrah and Hooghly, the RAGs have started to function successfully.
Cow slaughter is a sensitive issue in Bengal, which has nearly 29% minority population. BJP leaders stated that since the previous Left Front and Trinamool Congress governments virtually supported mushrooming of slaughter houses in the state, the party is left with no choice than go for drastic initiatives.
In January this year, a RAG stopped tracks in Barasat and released nearly 200 cows. Police arrested half a dozen acitivists in connection with the incident. Yet a week later, trucks with 250 cows, on its way to Bangladesh, were stopped in Bongaon.
Minority groups and leaders have, however, protested against such initiatives, and alleged that BJP is trying to push RSS agenda through out the nation.
“BJP is pushing RSS agenda in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and even trying it in Bengal. One must remember that if it is banned here, the economy will be badly affected. Not only meat, but the hide is used as leather. The leather industry will be crippled and country will lose exports. It is also a fact that beef is a nutritious food for poor Muslims. When the cows grow old where will they go?” said Siddiqullah Chowdhury, general secretary of Jamait Ulema-e Hind.
Apart from RAG, BJP has also embarked on a statewide drive to promote cows. BJP’s cow development cell is trying to set up co-operatives in villages for setting up ‘Gau Shalas’. This is apart from bio gas projects, fertilizer units, milk collection centers, cow urine collection centers in villages.