The “cow vigilantes” are going after butchers and cattle carriers. This is a part of a larger Hindu nationalist effort to economically devastate India’s Muslim minority.
Due to the nine-day Navaratri celebration, one of Hinduism’s holiest holidays, local authorities in Haryana, India, closed Mohammad Idris’ butcher business and took away his keys.
Idris has worked as a butcher for more than 20 years. He and other butchers in Haryana have recently been forced to lock their doors on Hindu holidays and every Tuesday, which is considered fortunate for Hindus. If they don’t, they risk getting fined, having their business licence revoked, and getting threats from Hindu nationalist groups.
For Idris and his family of five, the butcher shop is their only source of income.
“I’ve closed my store because I’m afraid of the crowd. They arrive with sticks, beating butchers as they like. Idris told DW, “Even if we go to the police, we know no one will listen to us.
Idris used to make €120 ($131) a month, but because of the prohibition these days, he would lose approximately half of that amount, and his meat will spoil because of the forced closures.
Measures aimed at reducing meat consumption have grown in several sections of the nation since Narendra Modi took office as prime minister in 2014, particularly in northern India. Extremist Hindu organisations like the Hindu Sena, Bajrang Dal, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have led the way in “vegetarian nationalism.”
Cattle traders are the targets of search operations by cow vigilantes.
In order to plan for a cattle search operation, Deepak Arya, the leader of a self-declared cow vigilante group, gathered with his group members last Friday about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Idris’s shop.
On their unlawful patrol, a DW squad pursued Arya and his group. Hail mother cow was the first phrase the vigilantes sang as they began their quest. They organised into gangs and surrounded every car they thought was transporting cows.
Following an hour of patrolling, Arya’s informant gave him a report about a vehicle carrying cows.
The group is holding out for the car to pass. The vigilantes then dragged two guys from the livestock truck, beat them, and smacked one of them with a glass bottle as they were being pulled out of the vehicle. The two guys sobbed as they announced that they were moving the cows to a dairy farm.
Arya asked the DW team to stop filming as the beatings got worse. Police policemen overlook the violence despite being only a few metres away from the scene.
They will incur significant costs.
An author who focuses on security and Islam, Ghazala Wahab, sees cow vigilantism as a component of a larger effort to punish and economically marginalise India’s Muslim minority.
“Over the past few years, the government has discovered a profitable way to demonise minority communities, incite animosity against them, and support vigilante organisations. All of this has led to a generalised feeling of anxiety throughout the nation, she told DW.
However, the national head of the right-wing Hindu Sena, the group behind the drive to outlaw meat, Vishnu Gupta, sees the sale and consumption of meat on Hindu auspicious days as an outright assault on Hindu culture and values.
Muslims must stop selling meat during festivals and holy days in order to show respect for the majority Hindu population. If they do not follow this, they will pay a steep price, Gupta warned.
Violence against the Indian Muslim community has increased, and this has been linked to the growth of “vegetarian nationalism.” Several states have recorded lynching cases in the past month due to allegations of cow transportation.