The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Haryana has packed its Gau Seva Aaayog with members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other associated saffron outfits in the state.
Of the 12 non-official members appointed by the state government to the cow commission five weeks ago, most have either held some position or have been active members of the ruling party or organisations such as RSS, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal for several years.
While the notification issued by the animal husbandry department described them as “volunteer gau sewak” or representatives of gaushalas (cow shelters), the strong saffron connection (see box) of the chairman and members stands out. Some of them run or have been associated with gaushalas in their respective areas. “The non-official members were selected by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in consultation with animal husbandry minister OP Dhankar. There is no criterion for selecting members,” according to department officials.
Aayog chairman Bhani Ram Mangla, who belongs to Mewat, remained president of the Gau-Vansh Vikas Prakosth of the BJP for five years, whereas Rishi Prakash Sharma, vice-chairman of the commission, is the returning officer for the ongoing organisational polls of the ruling party in the state. Sharma is a former pracharak of the RSS.
Among the commission members, Ram lal Bagri, Shravan Kumar Garg and Ramji Lal Rawat, who belong to Sirsa, Jind and Palwal, respectively, have had dayitv (held positions) in the RSS or been actively involved with its activities in the state. Daya Shankar Tiwari, Prabhati Lal and Mahant Parmanand Giri have been associated with the VHP. Vidya Sagar Baghla, who belongs to Ratia in Fatehabad, told HT that he has been sanyojak (coordinator) of the Bajrang Dal – another right wing outfit – in Hisar, Sirsa and Fatehabad districts for close to 30 years.
Acharya Yogendra Arya, president of the Gau Raksha Dal, is another member of the cow commission. Self-appointed gau rakshaks (cow protectors) of his outfit prowl the streets at night to prevent cow smuggling and some of them are facing police cases for clashes with those carting cattle. Yogendra Arya says he does not have any Sangh connection.
Besides the chairman and non-official members, the commission has nine top government officials, including additional chief secretaries or principal secretaries of animal husbandry, agriculture, finance, revenue and disaster management, development and panchayats, police and urban local bodies, and one representative of the Chennai-based Animal Welfare Board of India, as members.
While most non-official members visited the commission office at Panchkula last week to join their assignment and for an “informal, introductory meeting”, the full commission meeting is expected later this month.
The Gau Seva Aayog was established by the previous Congress regime four years ago for the preservation and welfare of cows, and supervision and control of institutions established for the purpose in the state.
It is also the nodal agency to plan and monitor gau abyarans (cow sanctuaries) to provide shelter and silage for about 1.5 lakh stray cows and bulls in the state.
The Right-wing link
Bhani Ram Mangla, chairman: A BJP leader, he was president of the party’s district units in Gurgaon and Mewat for seven years. Later, he remained state president of the Gau-Vansh Vikas Prakosth of the party
Rishi Prakash Sharma, vice-chairman: A one-time pracharak of the RSS, he is currently returning officer for the ongoing organisational polls of the BJP in the state
Prabhati Lal, member: He has been associated with the RSS and VHP since 1985 and remained sangathan mantri for Palwal and Mewat. Runs a gaushala in Mewat with 1,650 cows
Vidya Sagar Baghla, member: He has been a Bajrang Dal sanyojak (convenor) for Hisar, Sirsa and Fatehabad for nearly 30 years. Has been associated with a gaushala
Shravan Kumar Garg, member: A former pracharak and swayamsevak of the RSS, he remained baudhik pramukh at the district-level. Currently, he is president of the Shri Gaushala Association in Safidon (Jind)
Ramji Lal Rawat, member: He has been active in the RSS since 1990 and remained a member of the rashtriya karyasamiti of the Gau-Vansh Vikas Prakosth of the BJP
Ramlal Bagri, member: Associated with the RSS for five decades. He was its mukhya shikshak in Sirsa for 15 years. He claims to know both the CM and the PM. Closely associated with a gaushala for several decades
Mahant Paramanand Giri, member: Associated with the VHP for 15 years, he runs an ashram in Jhajjar. Has been zila sanrakshak and member of the dharam sansad
Daya Shankar Tiwari, member: A retired teacher, he is district vice-president of the VHP in Mahendragarh. Also, he is president of the Dholposh Gaushala Ashram.
Acharya Yogendra Arya, member: President of Gau Raksha Dal having 4,500-odd members, he also heads the Haryana Gaushala Sangh, an association of 400-odd private gaushalas