Bharat is mistakenly understood to be a kaleidoscope where people are cocooned in the splintered groups coddling their identities, and while they have a stout sense of belonging to their cubbyholes, nationalistic identity is merely an adrenaline rush striking intermittently. However, to the internal heart, there is a common string that demarcates this geography into national identity. Nationalism is based on common culture, ideas, ideals and most importantly, a tenacity to live together by allowing these commonalities to be at the forefront for the prosperity, glory and fraternity in the country.
Cow worship is one such ideal which has a long lineage in this nation. It has been an epithet of economic prosperity and Dharmic adoration for infinite centuries, and the thought is so embedded that it has become a part of national character.
The Constitution makers of Bharat also debated the issue of cow protection in the constituent assembly. The Supreme Court of Bharat has not shied away from upholding laws enacted by the states to protect cows in their respective territories, but the ghastly incidents of cattle smuggling and the proliferation of abattoirs selling cow meat are refusing to accept a mandate of law, much less are the perpetrators concerned about the sentimental association of Bharatiyas with ‘cow’ as a national symbol. Therefore, nationalist government at the centre has decided to outsmart these syndicates wishing to indulge in the illegal cattle trade.
After 2014, Hindus in this country demanded robust policies with respect to cow protection and their resolute implementation. Nonetheless, the violence cannot be condoned or justified; a so-called cow ‘vigilantism’ was in fact an emotional exuberance of Hindus for the centuries of injustice caused to ‘gaumata’.
Livestock management is a subject of state as per the prescriptions of the Constitution of India. Thus, central government has a limited role to play, but one area where it could take control was the illegal cattle trade across the borders. The Bangladesh-Bharat border is notorious for cow smuggling not only because the border is porous but due to the involvement of locals from both sides in it. West Bengal and Kerala have apathy towards strict legislation against cow slaughter, the obvious reason is vote bank politics. Murshidabad district in West Bengal is den of cattle smuggling and according to Bharatiya government, this illegal trade is flourishing in Bangladesh as a result of the country’s export of beef products to Gulf countries.
It is in common parlance that any attempt by the Border Security Force (‘BSF’) to thwart cattle smuggling is resisted by stone pelting and other violent means. Sometimes it is observed that the villagers across the border regions of both the countries attack BSF personnel in unison therefore, the challenge before the government was to tackle the problem without disrupting centre-state relations thus, to find a solution, the central government established a committee to suggest measures. In this regard, Shri Udai Lal Jalori, Consultant for the Committee on Administration Cattle Laws, has prepared a detailed report on the instances of flagrant and blatant violation of the cattle laws in the various States.
Central government however, has decided to break the spine of cow smugglers. Assam under BJP leadership is committed to the purpose and has put up a fence across the Indo-Bangladesh border adjoining a state territory, followed by strict instructions to the administration not to allow any illegal cattle trade. State government has banned the movement of cattle or livestock sent to its territory from other states from reaching vulnerable districts bordering Bangladesh.
Assam, one of the states happened to be a heaven for the smugglers before BJP governmentnowmaking them skedaddle with its tough policies, these actions, however, areruffling the feathers of anti-social elements in other states especially in West Bengal. The natural implication was that there would be frequent riots and commotions in border regions by virtually preventing the BSF from taking any action due to a lack of jurisdiction. After taking a stock of the situation central government extended the operational jurisdiction of the BSF from the earlier 15 kilometers wide belt running along the international border to 50 kilometers in several states, including West Bengal.
Although the move irked state governments, leading to a foul cry to save the federal structure, the Centre, being a custodian of national security, has acted well within its limits to swoop on the cattle smugglers and their sympathizers. With the help of the central government, the BSF too, in its swift response to the efforts have dismantled the earlier system where seized cattle were handed over to the custom officers who auction them off. These auctioned cattle were mostly purchased by the same smugglers scuttling the whole purpose.
Now, BSF has shaken hands with the local NGOs to route these seized cattle to cow sheds, leaving smugglers high and dry. An NGO called ‘Dhyan Foundation’ is receiving full assistance from the Assam government where they already have three cow shelters and a fourth one is in the pipeline.
Massive ear tagging of livestock projects undertaken by Bharatiya government is a technological surrogate to swamp cattle smuggling attempts. Once all the cattle in Bharat are ear tagged, relevant information thereto would be stored in a central repository. Identification of cattle is not an easy task, but with the help of ear tagging, real time monitoring and identification could be achieved. This will queer the pitch of smugglers for the constant fear of interception by the authorities.
Commensurate efforts on various fronts have been showing positive results. A significant reduction in the number of cattle smuggling incidents across Indo-Bangladesh border sends a clear message to our humbug neighbour that Bharat will not tolerate cattle smuggling anymore as cow protection is no more a government policy but a collective will of the people of Bharat. The stature of the nation is decided by the respect it offers to the monumental cultural symbols, therefore, a cumulative gumption of NDA ruled government at the centre and states combined with meticulous implementation by the BSF has made Bharat proud once again.
-by Shrijeet Phadke