Mohammad Khalid, a dairy farmer from Nuh district, met Pehlu Khan last week at the weekly Saturday pashu hatwara (cattle market) on Ramgarh road in Jaipur.
Khan, a fellow dairy farmer from Nuh, made his last purchase at the market on April 1, and was attacked by “gau rakshaks” in Alwar on his way home and died a couple of days later.
“He asked me if I was buying a cow. I told him I was and he then asked me how much the seller was asking. I said he was asking for Rs 70,000 but I was willing to pay Rs 62,000. He advised me to seal the deal at Rs 65,000 and bid goodbye,” says Khalid, sitting at the dusty market with hundreds of cattle and their buyers.
The traders at the fair are seething with resentment against gau rakshaks and police.
Most of them are victims of harassment, extortion and even assault by cow vigilantes, and Khan’s death has only reinforced their anger.
The attack on Khan has badly affected the business . Babu Lal (35), a local resident of Chawand Kamand who says more than 10,000 people come to the market to buy or sell cattle.
“This week hardly 1000-1500 people turned up,” he says.
Narendra Bhator, a trader from Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain, says he has been coming to the market with his father for a long time. “I was attacked by gau rakshaks in Tonk in April last year. If police hadn’t intervened, they would have killed me,” he says.
Gau rakshaks, he said attack the moment they see someone transporting cows. “They accuse us of transporting cows for slaughter. I am a Hindu, why would I take cows to a slaughterhouse?,” he asks.
Govind Singh (50), from Bassi who was at the market to sell cattle, says: “Last week too I came here to sell a cow and a calf, but I had to take them back as there were no buyers.”
“The number of buyers has decreased after the UP government banned illegal slaughterhouses and this week, following the attack on the dairy farmer, there were very few buyers.”
Khalid, a bearded skullcap wearing man, says the gau rakshaks single out Muslims.
“Lynch me if I transport cows for slaughter. Lynch my children too if I do the same,” he says. “I feed my children by dairy farming.”
Azharuddin, a trader from UP’s Mathura, says he supplies cows to Vrindavan, Barsana, and Govardhan, and yet faces harassment.“I have letters from the Hindu religious leaders and gaushalas, but nothing deters them,” he says.
“To save myself, at times, I call the Hindus religious leaders and make them speak to the gau rakshaks,” he says.
Raju, a Jaipur resident at the market who too goes by one name, says gau rakshaks have a rule. “If you are transporting cows, they’ll attack you. If you are transporting buffaloes, they’ll extort money from you.”
On an average, the cattle market generates business worth Rs 2-2.50 crore every week, but now it has come down by more than 50%, an official of the Jaipur Municipal Corporation, who does wish to be named, says.
A trader from Chomu, says, “Cattle are illegally transported from Rajasthan to other states. They never come back so the cattle population in the state is dwindling.”
Hearing this, fellow traders lose their calm and surround the man. “Do not tell utter rubbish. Rajasthan has the best cattle so the animals are taken from here,” says an agitated Nemichand Choudhary from Sikar.
He brings out his cow from the shed and shouts. “Look at this beauty. It is priced at Rs 1 lakh. It gives 20 litres of milk every day. Why would I sell it to a slaughterhouse?”
A fellow trader says that the cows are costly and buying them doesn’t make business sense for butchers. “Slaughtered and sold as meat, they wouldn’t fetch half the money.”
The JMC issues permits to people who transport cattle from the market. For taking cows out of the state, transporters need permission from the district collector, says Sidharth Mahajan, the collector and adds that he has authorised the sub divisional magistrate to issue the permits.
Baldev Ram Bhojak, Amer sub divisional magistrate, however, says that he no knowledge about the permits. “The JMC must be issuing the permits but I have never issued any.”