When chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday assured ‘gau rakshaks’ (cow protectors) of revoking cases registered against them, he didn’t probably know what he was getting into.
A number of self-styled gau rakshaks, who prowl the streets of Haryana at night to prevent cattle smuggling, are facing cases of assault, arson, attempt to murder and dacoity. While the police and home departments do not maintain separate record of cases against such cow vigilante groups, the Gau Raksha Dal Haryana, whose three volunteers, along with two constables, were held by the police on Thursday for the killing of a migrant worker in Karnal, puts the number of cases against its members in the state at more than 50.
“I have asked my people to prepare a detailed list of cases giving FIR numbers and names of gau rakshaks in the next two weeks. The list will be given to the CM for cancellation or withdrawal of cases. In some cases, charges of assault, dacoity and attempt to murder have been slapped on our volunteers. There could also be cases against members of other groups too,” Gau Raksha Dal Haryana president Acharya Yogendra Arya told Hindustan Times.
Acharya Yogendra, who also heads the Haryana Gaushala Sangh, an association of 400-odd private gaushalas in the state, was among the organisers of the state-level Arya Yuva Mahasammelan at Panipat where the chief minister made the promise to withdraw the cases.
A senior bureaucreat, however, said that there could be no general amnesty in such cases. “There is a set procedure for dealing with requests for cancellation or withdrawal of cases. Those named in cases will have to give application to the administration and legal opinion is taken in each and every request. It also depends on gravity of the offense,” he said, requesting anonymity.
NIGHT PATROLLING AND NAKAS
While several cattle protection groups are operating in the state, the Gau Raksha Dal Haryana, set up in 2013, is said to be the most active. It has its presence in all districts with 4,500-odd members, mostly between 20 and 35 years. The group, headquartered at Rohtak, has multiple teams armed with mobile phones and keeping in touch with each other through social media and messaging services.
Driven by “faith”, these cattle protection squads work in close coordination with the police, carry out night patrolling, position themselves at nakas and look out for trucks and other vehicles suspected of illegally transporting cows, bulls etc. “There was some problem initially, but we now have a strong network of informers and get regular tip-offs,” said the Gau Raksha Dal Haryana chief. The organisation has taken 50 mobile numbers in a series to help the informers connect with them. These squads, according to a group member, have saved over 9,500 cows, calves and bulls from the smugglers in the past three years.
“Cattle smuggling is rampant in Gurgaon, Mewat, Hisar, Yamunanagar, Panipat, Karnal and Sonepat districts due to their border with UP and Rajasthan and easy availability of stray cattle in the state,” said a Bajrang Dal activist from Fatehabad.
While recent attacks on vehicles suspected of carrying cattle have created a climate of fear in some areas of the state, the gau rakshaks blame cow smugglers, “over-enthusiastic” policemen or local mobs for the incidents. “The volunteers work with the police and never carry firearms,” one of them claimed.
‘BJP GOVT MORE RESPONSIVE’
The “cow crusaders”, emboldened by the new stringent law to ban cattle trafficking, slaughtering and beef consumption and the case-withdrawal assurance, see the BJP government as more responsive and cow-friendly. “Pehle ki apeksha is sarkar ka response behtar hai. Koi soochna milne par ab hum SP ko raat mein phone kar sakte hain. Woh karyawahi bhi karte hain(This regime is more responsive than the previous one. If there is any information, we can now call up the SP in the night. They take action),” said Acharya Yogendra Arya.
Gau Sewa Aayog chairman Bhani Ram Mangla also said that though the new law had given a clear message, constant vigil was needed to put a stop to cow smuggling. “It is a government of gau bhakts (cow activists). We will give all our support to gau rakshaks and recognition to their organisations. I plan to hold a meeting with them and take their suggestions, but no one should take the law into their own hands,” said the newly-appointed chairman.