Almost six months after the Haryana government imposed a total ban on the slaughter of cows, a donation racket appears to have arisen across the state to milk traditional veneration of cows.
This is evident in the “gau ki gullaks”, or cow crates, which suddenly became visible in dhabas and shops along state highways.
âIt started with the motive of strengthening the financial situation of the gaushalas [cow shelters] who came under enormous pressure after the government passed the cow slaughter law, âsaid Yadvinder Singh, director of Shri Krishna Gaushala in Kanina in the Mahendragarh district of Haryana.
But then members of Gau Raksha Dals, or cow welfare groups, realized there was an opportunity for “something else,” he said – declining to go into details. .
If one seems certain of the genesis of these piggy banks, everyone agrees that the reborn religiosity, coupled with political confidence, has a special place in the new informal economy.
In March 2015, five months after the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party was elected, the assembly passed the Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan law, which completely banned the slaughter of cows and the consumption of beef. President Pranab Mukherjee gave his approval to the bill in November.
Enter the game
Unable to sell their old cattle, many farmers tried to keep them in charitable cow shelters. With little government support to come, these institutions were forced to devote more energy to fundraising, as this Scroll story reported.
Some people who had nothing to do with protecting cows quickly saw an opportunity. But as a result, legitimate shelters suffered. “Since collecting donations for the gaushalas fell into the hands of local goons with the support of the ruling party, we have isolated ourselves from this racketeering by keeping proper records of every rupee that fell in our gullaks,” he said. declared the director of Kanina Gaushala.
He added: “We have made it compulsory that at least three members of the management committee must remain present during the opening of the gullaks and that the amount accruing from each of them be correctly entered in the gaushala register.”
As a precaution, it also stopped outsourcing the management of donations through these funds. âWe have placed 50 gulls in the Kanina market,â he said. âUntil about a month ago, these gulls were managed by a local trader in the market. But now we keep track of each of the gullaks ourselves.
In other places, however, there is less control. The boxes are prominently placed in roadside dhabas, especially on highways, and are regularly emptied by people claiming to be from either gaushala or members of Gau Raksha Dals. Many claim to have ties to the ruling party.
Strong arm tactics
âYou feel so intimidated when they come to put a gullak in your store that you can’t say no to them,â said Narendra Bhardwaj, who runs Royal Murthal Dhaba in Murthal on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway. “No one can ask them if the money is really going for the purpose for which it is given or if it just ends up in some people’s pockets.”
Although most dhabas each display a gullak, the Royal Murthal Dhaba has three boxes near its crate, each apparently from a different gaushala. âUntil recently, there were seven of these gullaks here,â Bhardwaj said. But about a fortnight ago the gullak operators “had a heated discussion among themselves, and subsequently they pulled out four boxes,” he said.
Bhagvir Ahlawat, a former sarpanch from Dighal village in Jhajjar district of Haryana, put the phenomenon in context. âThe same people who previously collected donations on behalf of a Ram temple in Ayodhya are now doing so on behalf of the gaushalas,â he said. “Whenever such easy money making opportunities arise, ideologically motivated street gangs are incorporated into informal unions.”
Locals say the competition to collect donations has started to create tensions on the ground. There have been reports of violence, not only on the grass, but also as passers-by are intimidated into donating.
âA group of guys with saffron headbands would come from time to time and ask for donations for the gaushalas,â said Rajiv Kumar, a resident of Sonipat and a lawyer. “If you take out a 50 Rs bill they demand 100 Rs, and if you volunteer to offer 500 Rs they make you pay 1000 Rs. You can’t complain anywhere because it is their government and the police will always be on their side.