In Hinduism, the cow symbolizes wealth, strength and abundance. So the slaughtering of this animal is strictly prohibited. Among the Hindus, the killing cows or allowing them to be killed is most sinful act for which one is liable to be punished not only in this world but also beyond. The scriptures say, Gokhu matra na vidyete meaning that the importance of cows cannot be explained. Cow is regarded as mother, popularly called gau mata. In the ancient time, the cow also enjoyed the same status as that of gold and money.
Cows are important not only because they are holy, but it is also because they have been supporting our life system and agricultural activities. The milk of the cow is treated to be most nutritious. Cow milk is sattvic (purifying) food. Many dairy products are made out of the cow milk, which is also the source of strength for the children, young and the old people. Bulls are used in tilling the agricultural land and also in transportation. Cow dung is the source of fuel and it is also used as organic fertilizer.
In many of the Hindu families, the cow dung is used for purifying the homes as it is also regarded as disinfectant. Her urine is used in religious rituals and also for medicinal purposes. Certain religious rituals are performed through panchgabya, which is prepared from the milk, curd, ghee, urine and dung of the cows. The Hindu scriptures, including the Puranas regard the earth goddess, Prithvi, in the form of cows. All the Gods and Goddesses reside in the cow body. Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, reside in the anus portion of the cow.
In view of the religious importance of the cows, many of the dying persons are made to touch the tails of the cows. There is belief that the cows help such persons to cross the ocean of misery after their death and enable them to reach the heaven. Therefore, even during the life time the Hindus offer the cows with the intention that they would support them even in the next life.
Among the Hindus, those persons are respected most who protect the cows. Lord Krishna is widely known for his love for the cows and so He is also called Gopal (one who preserves cows). Many of the kings and warriors are also praised for their efforts to protect this animal. In Hinduism, protecting cows is as sacred act as protecting one’s own self.
Therefore, cow slaughter is prohibited in Hindu-dominated Nepal. In Hindu majority India, too, the cow slaughter is banned in certain states. Even in some other religions like in Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, there is emphasis for the protection of cows. In Islamic India, too, the cows remained largely protected.
All through the history, cow slaughter has not been permitted in Nepal, which remained a Hindu Kingdom until 2008. The cow is regarded as the holiest among the holy animals in this country. As such, she is given the status of national animal. In the Muluki Ain (the code of the country), the punishment for killing the cow is as severe as killing an individual. Even after Nepal ceased to remain a Hindu Kingdom in 2008, the Muluki Ain is still operative in the country.
Unfortunately, however, for quite some years the media reports confirm that the cows are being smuggled on a large scale from Nepal to India and further to Bangladesh in an organized manner. Several gangs of smugglers are involved in this racket. They collect the cattle from the villages both in the hills and the Terai region and manage to take them across the border. After the cows reach India through the different border points between Mechi in the east to the Mahakali in the west, they are either slaughtered on the Indian soil or are further smuggled to Bangladesh for this purpose.
Though the smuggling of cows from Nepal to India is illegal and criminal offence, the security agencies of the country don’t seem to be so serious in controlling the rampant smuggling of cows. There have been occasions when such agencies pretend to catch hold of the smugglers and then later on allow them to escape. DIG Prakash Aryal of the mid-regional police office, Hetauda reported that 17 personnel were suspended on various charges including their involvement in cow smuggling.
Other than the security and law enforcement agencies, the civil society and common mass of the population also seem to remain pathetic about the issue of cow smuggling because of the lack of awareness. The so called spiritual persons could have contributed in this field, but nothing substantial cooperation is available from them. Shamefully though, the political leaders and certain political party who won the previous Constituent Assembly elections with their cow symbol are virtually doing nothing to check the smuggling of cows.
The situation would not have been so precarious if the farmers who tamed the cows would not have sold them to the gangs indulging in cattle smuggling from Nepal to the region across the border in India. But out of ignorance or with petty interest they do so. Chances of selling the cows to such gangs are least so long as they give milk. But as soon as they grow old, many of the farmers do not hesitate to sell them off at any price. But there are also farmers who do not sell the cows at any cost as they fear if such act would lead to the slaughtering of the holy animal.
There is hardly any account made about the number of cows that are smuggled from Nepal to India or to Bangladesh each day. Yet estimates are that thousands of cows are smuggled this way out of this country each day from different border points across the Nepal-India border region.
Recent media report confirm that in Rautahat district the cows are being smuggled from different border points such as Mathiya, Banjaraha, Bakul, Laxmipur and Belbichhawa. Likewise, in Sarlahi the cows are smuggled through Balara, Tribhuvannagar, Sagrampur, Sundarpur and Chaurhawa. Yet, the Gaur customs show that only 80 cows were under control from different places in Rautahat in the current fiscal year. People in this region largely believe that Nepal’s national identity would be questioned if the smuggling of the cows continues.
In fact, it would be wrong to associate the protection of cows to any specific religion. As such, most of the religions are so kind towards this animal. Protection to the cows means the protection of mother earth and all other instincts on this planet. Therefore, it is the pious duty of all cutting across the religious lines to save the cows. This is also necessary to maintain ecological and environmental balance in the world. Can’t we all contribute towards constructing gaushalas (the place to nurture the cows) if it is not possible to keep them at homes? There is economic viability for preserving even the old cows. In Hindu economics, there are plans to make cow preserving centers profitable as the sale of dung and urine other than the milk and its products might bring enough of returns. Let us all join hands to save the cows. Protection of the cows is protecting our own life system!