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'A cow's life is more precious than a human being's'

April 11, 2017 09:14 IST

'The BJP has failed to protect cows.'
Why doesn't the government say it is a government for cows, mandir and the Ganga?'
'Why don't they declare the cow as a national animal?

On March 31, Pehlu Khan, 55, and four others, ferrying cows and calves in two vehicles, were on their way to Haryana from Jaipur when they were stopped by gau rakshaks or cow vigilantes near Alwar.

The men were beaten up, their vehicles trashed.

Khan succumbed to his injuries two days later.

According to reports, Khan and the other four men were dairy farmers, and not cattle smugglers, and had the requisite permits to transport cattle.

However, on April 8, Alwar Superintendent of Police Rahul Prakash told Rediff.com that "Pehlu Khan and the others were 100% cow smugglers."

Following the national outrage over the Alwar incident, Congress politician Tehseen Poonawala moved the Supreme Court to ban gau rakshak groups across the country.

On April 7, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Rajasthan government and five other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states on the ban plea.

Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf spoke to Pawan Pandit, chairman, Bharatiya Gau Raksha Dal, about the Alwar incident, gau rakshaks and the BJP's failure to protect cows.

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre and five state governments on gau rakshaks. How would you react?

First, we will have to see the grounds on which the Supreme Court has sent this notice.

Second, is to see how the Congress party will gain political mileage from this.

The gau rakshak movement is not new -- it is a 400-year-old movement.

We raised the issue of cow slaughter in India, but today the goal post has moved.

Today, questions are being raised on gau rakshaks. The Una incident was made out to be an anti-Dalit issue by them (the Congress party), while the Dadri issue was made out to be an anti-Muslim issue.

People have died and gau rakshaks are responsible.

I will give you 50 examples in the last five years where gau rakshaks have died because of cow smugglers.

They shot gau rakshaks and killed them, but there are no debates in India when that happens.

The gau rakshak movement is not related to Hindus.

The Arya Samaj initiated gau raksha. Namdhari Sikhs do it to simply protect cows.

Even the Mughal emperor Babur spoke about cow protection though he was anti-Hindu.

There is a history of cow protection in India and therefore cow smuggling and cow slaughter have to be stopped.

In Alwar, the man who was killed, Pehlu Khan, was transporting cows, but he was killed.

Do you have the inquiry report? The home minister of Rajasthan (Gulab Chand Kataria) said these people were cattle smugglers.

More importantly, transporting cows in Rajasthan is not allowed without a permit from the district magistrate.

I am not defending the killing of Pehlu Khan. Such incidents must not take place, but you cannot blame gau rakshaks.

The issue here is about gau hatya (cow slaughter), not gau rakshaks.

The police can stop cow smuggling. Why do you take the law in your hands?

Take the example of Una.

It was showcased as gau rakshaks versus Dalits. Till this day, no one has proved that the accused belonged to a gau rakshak organisation.

So how does one know who is a gau rakshak and who is not?

Our organisation is registered like any non-governmental organisation. It is a national body.

We make members sign a declaration on an affidavit that they will not commit any illegal activities.

We also tell them that wherever cow smuggling is taking place they should take the help of the police.

For instance, a woman's purse is stolen in a market. The mob runs after the thief and beats him. The mob beats the thief without any weapons. Sometimes the thief dies because of the beating.

So let me clarify, gau rakshaks do not carry weapons with them, but cow smugglers do. But intellectuals do not want to get into these details.

In Alwar, a man called Arjun, the driver of the vehicle with Pehlu Khan's cattle, was told to leave, but Khan and the others were beaten up because they were Muslim. Is this not communal?

That's what the news is made out to be because politics is involved.

If that's the angle of a news report, the gau hatya issue will die and gau taskar (cow smugglers) will become heroes.

Except for West Bengal, Kerala, Goa and the north-east, cow slaughter is not allowed in most states.

There is a law in most states that bans cow slaughter, yet it happens. How?

Pehlu Khan was transporting cows for milk.

There were more than 20 cows in the Alwar case. There were three vehicles.

If you are transporting these many cows, then you must know the law that is applicable in Rajasthan.

You have to take a permit from the district magistrate. Pehlu Khan did not have the permit.

But you can call the police. Why assault and kill?

Today, there is a unified voice from every corner of India that wants cow slaughter banned. Why are some people not listening to this voice? Why is the media not representing the voice of the people?

The media portrays these gau rakshaks as terrorists.

Why is a doctor becoming a gau rakshak?

Why is a software engineer becoming a gau rakshak?

They are risking their lives for this cause.

They inform the police regularly and we have documented evidence to show that we follow rules and regulations.

Isn't human life more important than a cow's life?

The life of a cow is more precious than the life of a human being. This is according to Indian culture.

Cows help reduce global warming -- it's the only animal which delivers (exhales) oxygen.

Is there any scientific proof for what you are saying?

You prove it. This has been proved. Why has the USA patented cow urine?

Name any animal in world whose poop is useful. Only cow dung can be used.

You can use it to make gas, generate electricity, even build homes.

Our saints have said all this centuries ago. They have said cow slaughter is the biggest sin on Earth.

I also challenge you (to disprove) that you can make mosquito repellent with cow urine.

But your organisation is feeding on fear and rumours. Like in Jaipur, a restaurant was shut down on misinformation that it was serving beef. How long can this go on?

First, there has to be a centralised law against cow slaughter.

Second, why doesn't the government which is in power, say that it is a government for cows, mandir and the Ganga?

Why don't they declare the cow as a national animal?

Once you do that, cow smuggling will stop automatically.

But gau rakshaks are creating law and order problems.

The government has to speak in favour of the cow protection movement, which will not work if you represent cow smugglers.

So why is the controversy happening? It is because cow smuggling is still going on.

The failure of law and order is the responsibility of the government, not ours.

There is a BJP government in Rajasthan and yet cow smuggling is happening in the state. So are you saying the BJP has failed to protect cows?

Yes, the BJP has failed to protect cows.

I am not defending the BJP. The BJP has never been as powerful as it is now. They have a majority in the Lok Sabha and (very soon) in the Rajya Sabha too.

The country's sentiment too is with them. They are winning election after election, be it state or municipal.

Now they must enact a centralised law to protect cows.

Cows are eating plastic and need to be protected.

The government must help people who run cow shelters. They must give subsidies to set up business units using cow dung, cow urine and milk.

The BJP has always claimed that they are for the cow, the mandir and the Ganga.

Let them complete their first task -- the cow.

Why do you feel that the BJP has done nothing for cows?

They have done nothing for the cow.

They are changing names of every city and town. They have changed the name of Gurgaon to Gurugram. I have to change my stationery and it adds to my cost.

So there is no economic benefit for me from the name change, in fact it is a loss.

They must declare the cow as a national animal. Cow smuggling is happening because in many states cow slaughter is still not banned.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com