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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Cattle Smugglers Lynch 3 in Meghalaya; Dear Media, is this also ‘Cow Vigilante Terror’?

Three persons, including a village headman, were killed and three others seriously injured after a group of cow smugglers attacked them near the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya’s West Jaintia Hills district, police said on Saturday. This news has appeared as a small 200 word-article by news agency PTI, which has been reproduced by several media outlets.

The 6 villagers were attacked at a place near Trangblang village by the cattle smugglers on Friday afternoon while returning to their village Amlani. The village headman, the village secretary and another member of the village were killed on the spot, while three others were seriously injured and have been admitted to the Jowai Civil Hospital.

The main accused, his brother and their cousin were arrested initially, and later the police arrested three others, including another brother of the main accused. According to villagers, the headman and other villagers, earlier this week, had apprehended the main accused when he was trying to smuggle cattle to Bangladesh.

Routine Occurrence

Cattle smugglers being apprehended on Bangladesh border by BSF and other security forces is a routine occurrence. In Oct last year, BSF Deputy Commandant Deepak Mondal was critically injured by a 25-member armed gang of cattle smugglers in Tripura and later succumbed to his injuries.

Cattle smuggling gangs operating in the West UP-Mewat-Alwar belt are equally ruthless as their North East counterparts – in recent years, these smugglers have been known to be armed to the teeth; in one case the smugglers fired 60 rounds at police on the Rajasthan-Haryana border.

But each time such an incident occurs, the English language press projects it as a case of ‘meat/cattle traders’ being targeted by so-called cow vigilantes or police. For eg., last year there was a shootout in Alwar, Rajasthan when cattle smugglers tried to ram their way through a police barricade and opened fire on police, who fired back in retaliation – one smuggler died in the firing, but the Hindustan Times headline for the incident was “Man transporting cows shot dead by police in Alwar”.

Details Suppressed

In the cursory PTI report about the Meghalaya incident, the accused have been labelled ‘suspected’ cattle smugglers. Names of the victims and accused have not been mentioned; all the other media outlets which have run this story have also not bothered to find out those details. This stands in sharp contrast to the detailed way in which media reports any story where a cattle smuggler dies.

HinduPost spoke to Vivek Syiem, SP West Jaintia Hills – he told us he would revert with the names of the victims and accused via email, which is still awaited. We will update the article with those details if and when we receive the same.

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