Irony died a thousand deaths when 500 cows died in a gaushala in Hingonia, Rajasthan, the only state in India with a dedicated cow protection department. So what exactly happened, and who is to blame? Is it the cowshed workers who went on a strike since July 21 that left the 8,000 cows to live on its own? Or is it the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government that turned a blind eye to Asia’s largest cow shelter?
Whoever was responsible, the fact remains that 500 cows died because there was no one to take care of them. The incident that might gone unnoticed in other times as a mere news article, has gained political importance because in the recent past, gau rakshaks or cow vigilantes have been making the lives of Muslims and Dalits hell for either consuming beef or skinning a dead cow that was killed by a lion.
Gau rakshaks, the self-proclaimed protector of cows (but not bulls), are rankled when they hear about ‘atrocities’ committed by the Muslims or the Dalits. In social media portals, there are regular posts on how truckers have been beaten by cow vigilantes for allegedly transporting beef. And all this is because cow is considered sacred in Hinduism.
Coming back to Hingonia, an urban village on the outskirts of Jaipur is known for running a gaushala that provides shelter to around 8,000 cows. When two weeks ago, 266 contractual workers at the cowshed refused to look after the cows, citing non-payment of three months’ salary, it was just a matter gone wrong between the corporation and the agency that provided the workers.
But came the rains, and started wreaking havoc in the shelter, where in absence of any cleaners or feeders, the shelters turned into a deadly swamp of mud and dung. In a skirmish between the corporation and the workers, and the total apathy of the state government, cows died in a shelter that now resembles a concentration camp. While humans fought over their monies, 500 cows slowly died a horrific death, stuck in their own filth.
So why aren’t the cow vigilantes swarming Hingonia to protest of the tragic death to hundreds of ‘gau matas’? Why are the gau rakshaks not stoning the state government for neglecting the bovine creatures, or worse still, baying for the blood of 266 workers who refused to service the cows?
While I don’t expect the cow vigilantes, who are mostly bigoted jobless goons to give a respectable funeral to the 500 gau matas, I had expected them to appear at the site, at least giving daana-paani to the cows which had starved for two weeks. At least that much love and respect was expected from the self-righteous religious bigots.
But hey, that’s not the way they work. Gau rakshaks are only on their toes when they hear about cases about Muslims or the Dalits fiddling with a dead cow. In other times, they are happy being away from the stinky cow carcasses.