In the predominantly male-dominated realm of cow vigilantism in India, Neha Patel stands out as one of the few women cow vigilantes with an extensive network of militia recruits at her disposal to police the sale, transportation, or consumption of beef, with Muslim minorities being the primary target of her operations.
Her organization, Pranian Foundation, established in 2009 in Karjan, Gujarat, operates as a registered non-profit entity. After obtaining her Masters degree in Business from Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, Australia in 2010, she returned to India and officially registered Pranian Foundation in 2014. The foundation’s stated mission encompasses “cow protection, tribal welfare, propagating Hinduism, and teaching self-defense.”
She is also the Managing Trustee of Shri Swami Vivekanand Vidyalaya in Vadodara, Gujarat.
During her youth, Patel actively participated in Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) sermons, reflecting her strong affiliation with the organisation. This is evident from her social media posts, which included photos of her meeting with VHP central secretary Vireshwar Diwedi. Notably, she clarified that these particular photos were taken in 2002, emphasizing her longstanding involvement with VHP-related activities. In 2016, a piece published in Hindustan Times highlighted Neha Patel as the sole female Gau Rakshak (cow vigilante) in Gujarat.
Her Facebook account serves as a platform for disseminating Hindu far-right propaganda and promoting anti-Muslim hate and bigotry. In 2014, she expressed support for Nathuram Godse and blamed Mahatma Gandhi for India’s partition, hailing Godse as a hero. She often refers to Muslims as “jihadi.”
Patel has deep connections with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is evident through her social media posts. She has shared pictures with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders like Amit Thaker, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, and Meenakshi Lekhi. She considers Hindu far-right leaders like Vashi Sharma and Sanjeev Newar as her mentors. Newar is the founder of another cow vigilante organisation, Agniveer, while Sharma is the current head of the group. Both are well-known conspiracy theorists and have authored several books together.
Newar also works very closely with Swarajya staffer Swati Goel Sharma, and they jointly run Sewa Nyaya Utthan, a New Delhi-based non-profit organisation. Newar recently received a “cultural warrior ” award from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Neha Patel’s Cow Vigilante Network
In a 2022 interview with DO Politics, Patel claimed to lead cow vigilante teams across multiple states in India, including Assam, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Ghaziabad, with aspirations to expand further into South India.
The first instance of Patel posting about her involvement in cow vigilantism on Facebook was in 2013. She posted pictures of how she saved 12 cows from slaughter in Vadodara.
In 2017, Patel began documenting her involvement in vigilantism on social media platforms. Through her Pranian Foundation, she frequently collaborates with Agniveer Foundation, another registered non-profit cow vigilante group, which is affiliated with the Jan Swabhiman Welfare Society, another non-profit organization. Agniveer is also involved in harassing Christians and disrupting prayer meetings. In one incident, Agniveer members intervened in an inter-faith marriage, labeling it as “Love Jihad.”
This collaboration is evident as every video captured by Patel’s cow vigilante members mentions both Pranian Foundation and Agniveer Foundation before delving into accounts of their raids.
During an interview with Do Politics in July 2022, Patel shared her multifaceted involvement in the cow vigilante movement. Not only is she an active vigilante, but she plays an active role in the Ghar Wapisi (reconversion) of tribals in Gujarat and highlights the support received from Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), who serve as patrons for both Agniveer and Pranian Foundation.
All of Patel’s cow vigilante activities are shared in the form of a vlog on different social media platforms, including Twitter (16,200 followers), Youtube (82,700 subscribers), and Facebook (67,000 followers).
Her vlogs bear a striking resemblance to those of notorious cow vigilantes like Monu Manesar, featuring high-speed car chases predominantly on highways and occasionally in rural areas. Patel actively participates in these pursuits, even taking the wheel herself sometimes. However, these high-speed chases often lead to accidents, causing injuries to the truck drivers suspected of transporting cattle. Agniveer members, armed with sticks, aggressively shatter the front windscreen of the targeted vehicles and deploy spikes in their pursuit. The aftermath of these confrontations sees the detained drivers subjected to interrogation and physical assault.
Notably, the state police actively support Patel and her Foundation members in many of their operations, raising questions about the role of law enforcement in these incidents. These events are meticulously captured on camera, documenting statements from the detained drivers, and at times, Patel is seen personally handing them over to the police.
In addition to the high-speed chases, the Pranin Foundation adopts another tactic: conducting raids on Muslim households and cattle sheds owned by Muslims under suspicion of cattle slaughter. In such cases, Patel proceeds to seize the cows from the occupants and transfers them to Gaushalas. These operations are publicized on Facebook, with Patel mentioning the names of Agniveer volunteers who participated in these actions.
Her vigilantism extends beyond targeting trucks carrying cattle; she and her group have been known to intercept and chase down auto-rickshaws and motorbikes of ordinary Muslims suspected of carrying small quantities of meat.
Since 2018, there have been a total of 82 reported instances of cow vigilantism involving the Agniveer & Pranin Foundation. Among these cases, 66 have involved high-speed chases, some showing truck drivers facing physical assault. Of the 66 high-speed chases, 28 have resulted in severe road accidents.
Patel’s prominent role is evident in the vlogs’ content. Each vlog commences with a volunteer expressing gratitude towards Patel, Agniveer, and Pranin Foundation, underscoring her leadership position within both organizations and her role in inspiring militant cow vigilantism nationwide.
She also has police cases registered against her. In one such case, a local Mahavirbhai Harakhchand Jain alleges that Patel was the mastermind of a physical assault and attempted extortion in 2020. The matter is still sub-judice, and Patel is currently out on anticipatory bail.
Her influence has only grown over time. Last month, she was one of the speakers at the Hindu Jan Aakrosh Morcha organized by Sakal Hindu Samaj in Malegaon, Maharashtra.