Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Max Pixel

New Delhi: Even though a suspect of the Bhiwani killings has been arrested, a deeper look at some recent lynching incidents reveal that the amended Haryana anti-cow slaughter law might have had a role to play in emboldening cow vigilantes and thereby indirectly facilitating the burning of two Muslims (Junaid and Nasir) from Ghatmika village in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district.

The accused (Rinku Saini) who has been arrested in connection with the case is said to be part of special cow protection task force of the state.

Haryana added stricter provisions to its anti-cow slaughter legislation in 2019 and notified a special cow protection task force — including officials and members of local ‘gau rakshak’ (cow protector) committees. This has given a greater licence to vigilante groups to heavily arm themselves, conduct raids and dispense brutal ‘justice’.

Even though the slaughter of cows and bulls is prohibited in the state, the Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act, 2015 had no provision with regard to transportation of animals. Only animal cruelty laws used to be applied and that too to ensure the cattle were treated humanely while in transit.

Through an amendment in 2019, the state criminalised the transportation of cattle for slaughter with imprisonment of up to 10 years.

Emboldened Cow Vigilantes

The self-proclaimed cow protectors often stop vehicles carrying cattle for trade purposes, thrash drivers and other occupants and even burn them to death in full public view. They attack without any evidence of illegality. Far from taking action against them, the police either stand by helplessly or in some cases even provide them protection.

Such gangs have gained notoriety in posting its vigilante-styled attacks on the social media without any fear of law.

The self-proclaimed gau rakshak’, sources told NewsClick, have of late set up a strong of network of informers across Haryana, especially in the Muslim-concentrated Mewat region, who tip them off on transportation of cattle — no matter if it is legal or illegal — from their respective areas.

“If you have to catch a train in the wee hours from Bharatpur (Rajasthan) or Gurugram (Haryana), you will leave your village when it is dark. The informers in the village pass on information with regard to your scheduled movement to the so-called cow protectors, who ambush you at an isolated place on your way. If you successfully reach a deal with them and give them the money they demand, they will let you go unhurt. And if you don’t, you will be assaulted to the extent that you may even die. So, in the name of ‘gau raksha’ (cow protection), the ‘gau rakshaks’ are operating an organised extortion racket,” said a local resident on the condition of anonymity.

The villager further said that Meos are a Muslim cattle-rearing community. Dairy business is their source of livelihood. They keep buying fertile cows to make their herd more productive; and therefore, they need to transport the cattle they buy elsewhere.

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