Holy Cow!

Screenshot(256)A priest worships cows during a Gaumata Raksha Yagna
A day after Gauraksha Ekta Samiti member lost his life in Rajkot, and seven others attempted suicide by consuming pesticide, while demanding declaration of cow as “Rashtra Mata (roughly translated ‘Mother of Nation’)”, the Samiti is piling up pressure on the Anandi Patel government to make it mandatory for ministers to rear at least one cow at their official residence. Thursday’s mass suicide attempt also reverberated in the state Assembly on Friday with the Opposition Congress demanding zero hour discussion on the critical issue.

Much ruckus followed in the Assembly after Speaker Ganpat Vasava denied the demand on the grounds that the Assembly has no provision for the zero hour. The discussion on the issue is now likely to be taken up next week. It seems that two decades after the first BJP government was formed in Gujarat, in 1995, on the back of Hindutva agendas like cow protection, “cow politics” has made a thumping return. It is noteworthy that during the first BJP government, helmed by CM Keshubhai Patel, every MLA and minister reared a cow at their official residence.
The practice ceased after Keshubhai’s tenure. Twenty years later, Rashtriya Gauraksha Ekta Samiti, a “federation” committed to protection of cows, has again raised the issue. Its 300 members went to the Rajkot collector’s office on Thursday to submit a memorandum demanding a sacrosanct status for cow in India. Incidentally, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has also joined hands with the Gauraksha Samiti to further the cause of cows. Political observers says the Hindutva agenda took a backseat all this while, after the BJP first came to power in Gujarat.

Some sections feel it was a matter of time before the Hindutva agenda made a comeback as the issue got diluted in recent times while pursuing development goals during Narendra Modi’s reign, first as CM of Gujarat and now as PM of India. The Congress, on its part, said on Thursday that the cow politics is rearing its head again to unsettle CM Anandi Patel by a section within the BJP. While BJP old-timers feel the timing of the sudden eruption of cow protection issue says it all: reignite the Hindu passion ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections and scuttle movements like Patidar agitation that has the potential to affect BJP prospects.

Gauraksha Ekta Samiti is a federation of all the cow-protection groups in the state. Its activities picked up pace after a meeting of all the NGOs working for cow welfare in Ahmedabad in November 2015. The volunteers and members of the organisation carved a strategy towards fulfilment of their demands. It has the support of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal. Its activists went on hunger strike at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on February 28, 2016. However, when no attention was paid to them the activists decided to plan an agitation in Rajkot and attempt mass suicide. Talking to Mirror, one of the samiti leaders Dilip Gohil said all the Hindu organisations support their cause but they are ready for a lone battle if the support does not come from those quarters. “It is high time cows are accorded status they deserve in Indian society,” he said.

Gauraksha Ekta Samiti is all set to demand a norm for every MLA and minister in Gujarat to rear a cow at their official residence. The samiti will submit multiple memorandums on March 28, 2016, at all the state collectorates. The samiti is also seeking declaration of cow as the “Rashtriya Mata”, so that the practice of cow slaughter is halted. “We just want the government to make it compulsory for everyone to consider cow as our mother,” Kanaji Chauhan, president of samiti’s Rajkot district unit, told Mirror. Chauhan is also the president (Gujarat) of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Yuva Morcha.

Babu Bokhiria, the state Cow Breeding minister, said it is impractical to ask every MLA and minister to keep a cow at their government residence. “I live in a village and am connected with rural India. I keep three cows even at my government residence but the same cannot be expected from every lawmaker,” he said. If any other reasonable demand is made for cow protection, the state government will definitely consider it, he stressed. Gujarat Gau Seva Ayog chief Vallabh Kathiriya said the ayog has sent written memorandums to 18 departments at the Centre, explaining the importance of cow protection.

“Protection of cow is a necessity both on religious and scientific grounds. Gujarat has banned cow slaughter and we plan to raise it in the Centre as well.” On the demand of each lawmaker being asked to rear a cow, he said only former CM Suresh Mehta continues to rear a cow since 1995. The demand is not practical in the current situation. Nanu Vanani, minister of state for sports, said sentiment about cow protection is one thing and demanding that every minister rear a cow is something totally impractical. “For instance, I live in Surat. Even though I want to keep a cow, I cannot keep it,” she said.

Vasuben Trivedi, Women and Child Welfare (Independent Charge), Higher and Technical Education, commented: “There cannot be a compulsion to keep a cow at the official home of an MLA or minister. I have cows at my ancestral home, but it is difficult for me to keep a cow in city.”

In 1947 the human population of the country was 45 crore against 100 crore bovines. According to 2012 census, the bovine population is just 19 crore against human population of 125 crore. The situation is graver in Gujarat. As per the figures of Animal Husbandry Department of Gujarat, the total population of cows in the state was 99 lakh in 2012 which means 1 cow for 7 residents compared to 1cow for 4 residents in 2000.

Source: Ahmedabad Mirror