Cow vigilante groups affiliated to right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have appointed “gau bhakts” who will travel on trains and be present at railway stations to check ‘beef’ trade on trains in Malwa and Nimad districts.
These gau bhakts, who act as informers of the VHP, are even employed with the government railway police, railways, while some vend goods on trains.
The VHP leaders say that smugglers are now using trains to transport beef and buffalo meat to various parts of the state and neighbouring Dahod in Gujarat.
A VHP office bearer, who did not wish to be named, said that the banned meat is transported from Gujarat’s Dahod district from where the meat comes in Madhya Pradesh on trains that stop at a number of stations in the state.
“The banned beef and buffalo meat is transported on shorter railway routes, which run till Dahod in Gujarat and they also use mail and express trains,” says a member of a cow vigilante group.
Ratlam, the headquarters of the West Central Railways, is the hub of the illegal beef transport trade, says Sohan Ji Vishwakarma, VHP Prant chief.
“Trains are now a popular mode for transporting beef. We had earlier asked the Jhabua police to check trains passing through Meghnagar but they have cited law and order situation and assured us that they will keep a check but nothing has happened,” he said.
“The cow vigilante groups have been asked not to use force or assault meat smugglers during the raids…,” he told Hindustan Times.
“The VHP also provides basic training to these gau bhakts to identify beef.”
Jitendra Kumar Jayant, public relation officer of West Central Railways, said that they are not aware of the banned meat being transported on trains on the Ratlam–Dahod route.
“It is mere rumours, nothing else,” he said.
Women accuse own people of tipping off saffron brigade
In Mandsaur, sisters Salma Mevati and Shamim Hussain blamed some ‘jealous’ members of their community for the Tuesday’s thrashing they received at the hands of cow vigilantes at Mandsaur railway station for carrying ‘beef’.
“It is our own people, who are jealous of us, who tipped off the saffron brigade. It is common knowledge here that we go Jaora to get buffalo meat,” one of the sisters said.
The sisters said they had a bill for the buffalo meat purchased from Taal mandi in Jaora. “We kept on pleading that we have a bill and that we were carrying buffalo meat, but no one listened and they kept beating us. We often go to Jaora to purchase buffalo meat for friends and family,” Salma told Hindustan Times, in their small mud house in Khanpura, a Muslim dominated area in Mandsaur.
The duo denied that they had brought the meat for selling. “We have a big family and we consume it ourselves,” Shamim claimed.
Police, however, refuse to buy the argument.
Buffalo meat cost less than one-third of mutton but it is difficult to believe that the meat was for the family’s consumption given their poor background, police said.
“In Taal naka, Jaora, buffalo meat cost Rs 100 per kg and it is sold in Mandsaur for around Rs 140 per kg,” a policeman said.
Salma and Shamim share a two-room house. The sisters have three children each. Salma’s husband Ismail Mevati is a daily wager, while Shamim’s husband Akhtar Hussain died a few years ago.
“It was a horrible experience, and I fear for my life. These people can do anything. They would have killed us, had the policemen not intervened,” Salma said. “I want the women who thrashed us to be arrested.”
While four men were arrested and released on bail, none of the women who assaulted the sisters have been arrested or even identified so far.