New Delhi: Over the last few years, the cow has emerged as a major player in Indian politics. Bharatiya Janata Party’s endorsement of the bovine has made the pastoral animal a political tool to win favours among Hindu groups.
The fierce politicisation of the cow has also led to the rise of cow vigilantes, or gaukrakshaks, and spread of violence over cow protection. Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have seen multiple instances of violence and unrest that have led to deaths of innocent cattle traders and even policemen.
During its rule, BJP has been attacked by opposition parties over cow politics, but of late the saffron party has not been the only political entity milking the cow for its benefit.
Earlier this week, the newly formed Congress government in Rajasthan announced that it would honour people who adopt stray cows, on Independence Day and Republic Day.
The Directorate of Gopalan, Rajasthan government, which was formed under BJP rule, issued a letter to all district collectors, asking them to motivate donors, NGOs, social workers and cow lovers to adopt stray cows, and felicitate such people on August 15 and January 26.
According to Vishram Meena, director of Gopalan department, the step was taken so the people can develop an attachment for cows.
Just like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan has a stray cow problem. Farmers in the state complain of stray groups of cattle ruining their crop. The state has also seen the ugly side of cow politics.
In 2017, a group of cow vigilantes lynched Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer from Alwar transporting cattle legally.
However, the Congress government that came to power in December, has so far not shied away from cow centric policies.
There are 2,673 goshalas (cow shelters) housing about 9 lakh cows in Rajasthan. Meena, Director of Gopalan, said that it would serve people well if they connected with their local cow shelter.
“We want to motivate people to adopt stray cows that can be shifted to cow shelters. People can visit the cows and take care of them once a week or once in a month,” Meena told News18.com.
According to him, the move could also be a solution for the stray cow menace in the state. “This can ensure cows don’t roam around in city streets or farmlands.”
Ahead of Assembly elections, Congress had also played a cow card in Madhya Pradesh: promising to build cow shelters in every panchayat, start production of cow urine products and open a spiritual department.
It’s not just Congress that’s trying to milk the cow; Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), that had since its inception talked about developmental politics, seems to have decided to walk the cow route as well.
On 9 January Delhi government announced a plan to merge a cow shelter with an old age home where senior citizens and cows could co-exist and take care of each other.
Ten days after saying “we don’t play politics in the name of the cow,” AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal visited cow shelters in Haryana earlier this week and said the AAP government was taking better care of stray cows in Delhi than the BJP government in Haryana.
Naveen Jaihind, AAP’s Haryana unit president, said that visiting cow shelters or talking about cow welfare does not necessarily mean AAP is politicising the issue. “Does BJP own cows?” he asked.
“BJP is betraying cows, people and even Ganga, ”Jaihind told News18.com.
The AAP Leader said that the Delhi government spends Rs 40 per day on every cow for welfare, while the Haryana government spends only 40 Paise. “We have never done politics over the cow,” he added.
“Is it politics to similarly say we give Rs 1 crore to the kin of martyrs and Haryana government does not? When a farmer needs compensation, we give him Rs 20,000 per acre, they give Rs 10,000. We give minimum wage of Rs 14,000 to labourers, they give Rs 9,000. If this is politics then that is how it should be.” Jaihind strongly emphasised.
According to Jaihind, Kejriwal attended goshala programs in Haryana upon invitation. The Delhi Chief Minister was invited attend as the Delhi government had done good work for cow shelters in Delhi. “Hum asli gau bhakt hain, BJP waale to nakli gau bhakt hain,” said Jaihind.