Cows, cows, everywhere: An extract from Love Jihadis: An Open-minded Journey into the Heart of Western Uttar Pradesh – The Hindu

Posted: March 9, 2020 at 7:46 pm


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Sunil Singhs car was following ours when he called me to find out where we were.

About to reach the ashram, I replied.

Are you in a black car?

Yes, I said.

Im in the car behind you.

Raul and I pulled over and he joined us in our car.

We exchanged pleasantries. He couldnt place me till he saw me. I had visited the ashram a couple of years earlier to do a story about how a certain segment of humanity is the cows biggest enemy. As we entered the ashram now, illuminated by warm sodium lights under the red sky of a dying day, our surroundings had an occult-like quality. I wondered, is this a temple to the cow? For sure, its a retreat or an old-age home for cows. In a state of general excitement, I began explaining to Sunil what science had to say, that cows and dogs, followed by perhaps the horse, were the earliest friends of mankind.

Sunil is a big guy with a stout, solid torso that supports an enormous round, balding head. He looks like he might have been a wrestler, though he has never wrestled. Sunil was barely five years old when he joined Ramesh Baba, the spiritual leader and founder of this ashram, in the late 1980s. Since then, he has been here, working day in and day out, and has risen through the ranks to become, for all practical purposes, the ashrams chief executive officer. He shares some of his management responsibilities with two other influential men deputed by Ramesh Baba.

Sunils face glows in the fading light of the day. His menacing figure belies an affable disposition. Hes a vegetarian and does not consume any mind-altering substances, not even tobacco. He has a certain reputation in the region. People know him, and those who know him revere him. Its the kind of reverence thats laced with more fear than love.

Particularly in the Hindi heartland, with its patriarchal, feudalistic traditions, it is muscle power and grit that keep a set-up like this running. Sunil is capable of defending the ashram; hes not dependent on the police like an ordinary citizen. The local cops treat him like a mafia man who can pull strings in the corridors of power. The chief minister of the day is eager to travel to the ashram to meet him and his guru, Ramesh Baba, who, Sunil informed us, was not well.

******

Sunil, it turned out, was not a diehard fan of Yogi Adityanath. Its not that Yogi Adityanaths cow vigilantism is not effective, he said. Gau-taskari or the smuggling of cows has come down. It is now 70 per cent of what it had been a year ago. But that means there are 30 per cent more cows on the streets in this region. Not that anyone notices it, for cows have always been around. You cant miss them as they eat garbage and plastic bags in the suburban landscape, or stand listlessly in the middle of the road as if their journey had ended just there. The piles of garbage, the snake charmers and the revered cows on the streets of India have, in fact, fascinated visitors since the times of Rudyard Kipling.

Sunil was not happy about the rise in the number of abandoned cows. Theres a limit to how many cows he can accommodate in this ashram. They are abandoned like the widows of Vrindavan, left to fend for themselves when they are past their prime, just when they need to be cared for the most. They are sacred, mother-like, not to be killed for meat, but they are abandoned to starvation and disease. The inherent sacredness of a cow and the treatment it receives is typical of India, a country of glorious contradictions.

Sunil said that farmers are not happy with so many abandoned cows strolling around. They are everywhere, like pests, and they enter farms, trample on the crops and destroy them.

Its a big problem here, he said. Some farmers, mostly Hindu, are then forced to bring in people who are part of the supply chain of the tanneries in the neighbouring areas. Mathuras neighbouring district of Agra is a leather industry hub.

******

Two years ago, Sunil had told me that one or two cows are stolen every day. He carried out a bit of an investigation to learn who the culprits were. They were poor people, mostly Hindus. One of them, caught red-handed, was a Hindu boy in his late teens. He would sell the stolen cows across the border in Rajasthan for their hides. Each dead cow would fetch the locals at least a couple of thousand rupees useful to run the household for a month or two.

This young boy was not handed over to the police. Instead, Sunil asked him, as reparation, to help in the construction of a local temple for a few months. Locals tend to carry out Sunils decree without protest.

Two years later, his version has changed a bit. Both Hindus and Muslims steal cows, he said, more democratic now about the religious identity of those who commit this crime. Though, both Muslims and Hindus commit the crime, they have different roles. Muslims kill the cows and Hindus facilitate the killing. The economic benefits come to Hindus as well because they are the traders, while Muslims do the dirty work. And of course, Hindus dont eat beef. They kill those who eat beef, Sunil laughed. This was not funny.

He made some innovative suggestions that Im sure he will communicate to Yogi Adityanath when he meets him next. One such idea is a subsidy on cow dung. Cow dung has been the main source of fuel for cooking in the Indian hinterland for centuries. Every part of a cow, alive or dead, is useful. Cow urine, for instance, has been found to be beneficial in a host of medical conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, psoriasis and many more.

The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was categorical about cow protection. To him, Mother cow was in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth, and therefore, he said, Cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world and Hinduism will live so long as there are Hindus to protect the cow. Gandhi had a message which is now relevant for the lumpen cow vigilante groups, who dont protect cows and kill humans. Gandhi had said: I would not kill a human being for the protection of a cow, as I will not kill a cow to save a human life, be it ever so precious. In other words, the life of a cow is as valuable as that of a human being, but this should not lead to bloodshed.

No politician has done anything for the cow, Sunil said in Hindi. They only do lip service, but there is nothing on the ground. Akhilesh Yadav did nothing, neither has Yogi. And then, he added after a long pause, Ab tak (so far).

Because there is no sincerity in the way cows are treated, there is a general decline in all spheres of life, Sunil pointed out, particularly the environment. The Yamuna is polluted. The natural systems are contaminated. People are dying early; hepatitis B is on the rise. Something is wrong, he said, sounding impassioned, as if something sinister were about to unfold in the land of Krishna. Modi has not taken the time to do something for the river Yamuna, he said. The real gau-rakshak is not happy. Yogi tries to be the thekedar of Hindus, but has only done lip service. Gau-raksha is only a political gimmick. Sunil was unrelenting in his criticism. Nothing is happening on the ground.

Extracted from the chapter, Mathura: The Real Gau-rakshak, of the book (Westland).

See the article here:

Cows, cows, everywhere: An extract from Love Jihadis: An Open-minded Journey into the Heart of Western Uttar Pradesh - The Hindu

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March 9th, 2020 at 7:46 pm

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