India’s Controversial Cow Protection Group Conducts Cattle Census – India Real Time – WSJ

A group concerned about the safety of India’s cows has embarked on a controversial and ambitious mission this month: counting all the cattle in the state of West Bengal.

“Our aim is to save the cow mother,” said Subrata Gupta, president of the Bengal branch of Cow Development Cell, which used to be associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The group will use the data to protect the state’s cows, many of which are being illegally exported to Bangladesh and Pakistan for slaughter, said Mr. Gupta.

The status of cows — an animal deeply revered in Hinduism – is a divisive issue in the country. Critics say conservative Hindu groups, emboldened by the BJP’s power in New Delhi, are eating away at the country’s secular roots by trying to ban beef consumption.

Over the weekend Mr. Modi spoke out against self-styled vigilantes who say they are trying to protect cows. He urged state governments to punish them when they use cow protection as a rationalization for hate crimes.

Cow slaughter is already illegal in many Indian states–including Uttar Pradesh where a Muslim man was killed by a mob last year following rumors he had slaughtered a cow for food.

The eastern state of West Bengal, however, allows the killing of cows during the Islamic religious festival of Eid.

Around 6,000 volunteers from Mr. Gupta’s group are going door-to-door across state to record how many cows each household owns. The group wants to finish the survey before Sept. 12, when Muslims will celebrate Eid.

“Thousands of cows are being smuggled across India’s border into Bangladesh, where they will be slaughtered,” said Mr. Gupta of the Cow Development Cell which has groups apprehending cattle trucks, even though it has no legal authority to do so.

He said activists from the group freed about 40,000 animals last month.

The BJP recently broke ties with Mr. Gupta’s Cow Development Cell.

“It was an all-India decision that a separate cell for cow development is not needed,” said Dilip Ghosh, president of the BJP in West Bengal.

That hasn’t stopped Mr. Gupta and his army of self-styled cow protectors who say they will release the results of the cow census on Sept. 15.

Source: India’s Controversial Cow Protection Group Conducts Cattle Census – India Real Time – WSJ

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