During the increasing right-wing fanaticism over cow reverence, Rajasthan, with one of the largest cattle numbers in the country, has few takers for sick and abandoned cows.
In an act to impose cow reverence, in November, a plastic cow installation at the Third Jaipur Art Summit was removed after some right-wing groups found the art “disrespectful to the cow”.
In another incident last month, Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers smeared the faces of two officials with grease in reaction to the increasing number of cow deaths at a municipal corporation-owned cowshed in Ajmer.
In a stark case, in May this year, Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi in Birloka village in Nagaur district was lynched by a mob on the pretext that he might, in the future, sell beef at his meat shop.
With 1.33 crore cattle, the State has large numbers of abandoned cattle attaining refuge in municipal corporation-run and private cow shelters.
However, amidst all actions towards maintaining respect for cows, most of the right-wing groups are missing from action even as deaths due to intake of plastic, shortage of fodder and lack of proper shelters. These are major causes for concern, especially in a livestock-based economy like Rajasthan.
At the Hingonia Cow Rehabilitation Centre in Jaipur which shelters about 9,000 cattle, cow deaths are high due to lack of proper healthcare and fodder.
Not much donations
The cow shelter, which welcomes donations and outside help, has not received much from the right-wing groups, including the VHP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Uma Shankar, who works at Hingonia as livestock assistant, said, “We receive lots of donations from people and various groups but I can recall only one person from the VHP who had made a donation, once.”
“Rather than providing assistance, the groups some times create problems for us,” Shankar said, recounting an incident where the VHP workers had seized over 30 trucks carrying cattle from traders who had bought them at a cattle fair in the Nagaur area.
The VHP workers, after seizing the cattle, brought them to Hingonia, which already has a dearth of resources.
“Hingonia is a shelter for abandoned cattle and not for the cattle seized from their rightful owners,” Shankar said.
For the RSS and the VHP here, their idea of ‘gau raksha’ is largely about keeping a check on cow smuggling.
Sugan Chand of the RSS, who is the Jaipur Prant Gau Seva Pramukh, said: “The cattle smuggled or transported often get slaughtered, so we stop the cattle from being transported.”
Due to the acts of seizing cattle from traders, the cattle fairs across the State have lost their charm. In the recently-held Pushkar Fair, the number of cattle brought to the fair was 452, a steep fall from 4,270 in 2013.
According to Joint Director, Rajasthan Tourism Department, G. S. Gangwal, interference by the right-wing groups has made transportation of cattle difficult for traders, which reflects in the deceasing number of cattle traded at the cattle fairs held across the State.