… The fate of the wandering cows has generated headlines across social media, newspapers and television: A Muslim man killed by a mob for keeping in his fridge what they thought was beef; the bovine collision of India’s new Vande Bharat fast train; the death of a biker in a cow-crash; speculation that Bollywood star Hema Malini will become brand ambassador of a state cow body…
Modi’s Drive to Protect India’s Sacred Cows Divides Voters
Vigilantes have killed 44 people, while authorities are cracking down on cattle trading and illegal slaughterhouses.
By Vrishti Beniwal and Pratik Parija, Bloomberg
March 12, 2019
Officer Javed Khan was trying to feed a cow in the backyard of his police station.
His men had picked up the animal from the road after the Uttar Pradesh government in northern India asked police to set an example by adopting stray cattle—the latest twist in India’s age-old tension between Hindus, who worship cows, and Muslims, who eat beef. Reports of clashes between the two groups have surged after a clampdown on cattle trading and illegal abattoirs prompted dairy farmers to abandon unwanted livestock on the streets.
“No one cared about stray cows before,” said Khan, wearing his service revolver and police radio. “Now people call us to help if a cow needs to be protected.”
The tightening of rules by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, backed by Hindu nationalists, has created a media storm in the country just as politicians begin campaigning for a general election. The rising population of strays has been blamed for trampling crops, causing road accidents and setting off a spate of extra-judicial killings.
The issue has polarized a country of 1.3 billion people that is almost 80 percent Hindu and also home to the world’s third-largest Muslim population. Cow vigilantes have killed at least 44 people in the past three years, according to Human Rights Watch. While cow slaughtering is banned in most states, including Uttar Pradesh, previous administrations never strictly enforced the laws.
The difficulty of selling cows for slaughter has angered some dairy farmers who relied on the sales for extra income, and disrupted the country’s leather and meat industries. Damage to fields by wandering cattle has also hurt crop farmers, a key voting bloc for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which faces a general election between April 11 and May 19.
The fate of the wandering cows has generated headlines across social media, newspapers and television: A Muslim man killed by a mob for keeping in his fridge what they thought was beef; the bovine collision of India’s new Vande Bharat fast train; the death of a biker in a cow-crash; speculation that Bollywood star Hema Malini will become brand ambassador of a state cow body.
So-called Gau Rakshaks, or cow protectors, have taken to the Internet to ridicule those in the cattle trade and convince people to look after cows.
“It’s already creating mistrust in the country,” said Himanshu, who goes by one name and teaches economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He said unproductive cattle have to be disposed of as they are not giving farmers any return, but cow shelters are not enough as the number of stray animals will keep increasing. “The government should find a long-term solution.”
Many of the headlines are from the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh...
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