In Jharkhand, a ‘Hindu helpline’ to check beef sale, cow slaughter
A clutch of right-wing groups have announced a “Hindu helpline” for BJP-ruled Jharkhand to thwart cow slaughter and beef trade in the tribal state amid communal concerns in parts of the country following a spate of violence over sale and killing of cattle.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal are likely to launch the service by early next year, which they say will boost the sentiments of the state’s Hindu community.
The move comes at a time when the BJP and its affiliates have whipped up Hindu self-esteem and the cow as emotive issues in the country with the central message one of religious pride and tactical emphasis on uniting the community.
“Checking beef sale and slaughter will only be a part of the facilities provided through the helpline. It will have greater relevance of giving fast medical aid, business assistance, security and legal support to all Hindu brothers here,” said Suman Swaroop, the VHP’s Ranchi president. “Through the helpline, one can lodge a complaint with us if they find illegal cow slaughter and sale in any part of the state. We will refer it to our Gao Raksha Samiti, which will pass the information to the police for legal action.”
Cow slaughter and beef have emerged as hot button issues in the past few months with 55-year-old Mohammad Ikhlaq being killed by an angry mob in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he butchered a calf, while another Muslim man was lynched in Himachal Pradesh amid suspicions that he was smuggling cows.
Several states with BJP governments have in recent months enforced and enhanced long-dormant laws imposing prohibitions on cattle slaughter and beef trade as right-wing organisations push for a nationwide ban, which is being opposed by minority groups and activists.
On Friday, members of a nondescript organisation as well as Left leaders took to the streets in neighbouring West Bengal and consumed beef as a mark of protest against growing communal violence in the country.
However, the helpline in Jharkhand will not promote any kind of hostility, say the groups associated with the project.
“We will have to go out on the ground and stop the illegal slaughter since the police are not serious about the issue,” said Shiv Sena’s Jharkhand general secretary, Sandeep Mukherjee.
About 100 activists, including Shiv Sainiks, would be trained to attend to the phone calls and address the grievances, he said.
“There is absolutely no problem if they inform us about the illegal slaughtering and sale, but any act of violence or policing by them will not be tolerated,” said additional director general of police in Jharkhand, SN Pradhan.
An earlier BJP government in the state led by former chief minister Arjun Munda brought in the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Ordinance in 2005 which was later made an Act. It carried a penalty of Rs 5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years or both for offenders.
Chief minister Raghubar Das was Munda’s deputy at the time and played a key role in the passage of the Act in the assembly.
Officials in the chief minister’s office, however, said the Act was never “implemented holistically”.
A senior official said the BJP government was also planning to make cow slaughter a non-bailable offence, unlike the previous legislation.
“I would urge all our Hindu brothers to inform us about any incident of cow slaughter or beef sale they come across in Jharkhand,” said Nagendar Pandey, the helpline’s convener. “We will take up the matter with the authorities.”
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