Since October 2011, when the government of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi amended the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act, 1954, by inserting clauses banning cow slaughter and the sale and transportation of cow meat, there has been only one conviction under the Act.
On May 8, 2016, Rafik Khalifa (35), a resident of Gandevi taluka in Navsari district, was sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment by a local court under various sections of the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 2011, for possessing beef. This, according to public prosecutor M N Vasava, was the first conviction under the law amended in 2011.
On Friday, the Gujarat assembly amended the law again to make it more stringent. Cow slaughter now carries an enhanced punishment ranging from a minimum 10 years in prison to a maximum for life. The punishment for illegally transporting cow, beef or beef products is seven years.
Khalifa was caught by two members of cow vigilante groups on October 8, 2014 from Gandevi taluka, while he was allegedly on his way to sell the beef to customers in villages. Hundreds of cases have been registered across Gujarat for alleged violations; there has also been widespread abuse of the law. The most egregious case was in Mota Samdhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir-Somnath district on July 11, 2016 — four Dalit youths were flogged by “gau rakshaks” on suspicion of cow slaughter; investigation revealed later that the cow had been killed by a lioness, and the local police had fudged the record to book the Dalits for cow slaughter.
In September last year, cow vigilantes chased a car allegedly carrying two calves in Ahmedabad and thrashed the driver, Mohammed Ayub, who died of his injuries in hospital. The police filed a chargesheet against seven persons, all of whom allegedly worked to “protect” cows from slaughter.
On March 27, 2017, the Gau Rakshak Dal of Surat’s Gabhru Bharwad lodged a complaint against drivers of two tempos they had intercepted on Palsana Bardoli road near Dhamrod village. The drivers had fled, leaving behind five cows in each vehicle.
In Panchmahal district, 87 cases of alleged transport of cattle to slaughter houses were registered last year. In one case, the Godhra Taluka police arrested three persons for allegedly transporting 14 bullocks near Vavdi toll plaza in Godhra town.
The same year, 30 cases were registered in Anand district — in most cases, for transporting cattle and cow meat. In eleven cases, a total 2,930 kg meat, mostly of cows, were seized.
A superintendent of police said on condition of anonymity, “The amended law is good, as it will work as a deterrent. We have seen this recently in the case of the liquor law — after it was made a non-bailable offence, many habitual bootleggers who used to get bail easily are behind bars. There will be a similar impact in cases of cow slaughter. Trading in cow meat is anyway not lucrative, so offenders will think twice before indulging in such acts.”
In at least a dozen orders pronounced between 2012 and 2017, the Gujarat High Court found that the police had registered cases for either carrying buffaloes for slaughter or buffalo meat. The accused had moved the court for the release of vehicles impounded under the 2011 Act, that provides for their seizure for six months. The court ordered police to release such vehicles since they were carrying animals or meat other than that of cow.
“There is a lot of harassment by the authorities. I have at least three dozen cases, 60% of which deal with buffaloes. However, the police treat all cases under the same Act,” advocate Soeb Bhoheria said. “The lower courts hardly consider the difference, and we have to move the High Court every time for the release of vehicles that were impounded wrongly.”
Some other cases in which action was taken under the Act:
On July 6, 2016, Nazir Shaikh and Faruk Surti of Anaval village in Mahuva taluka of Surat district, and Hussain Shaikh and Naeem Shaikh of Surat city, were arrested by Mahuva police for alleged involvement in slaughtering a cow on the banks of the Kaveri river in Anaval village. Sarpanch Thakor Patel had lodged a complaint against the accused.
On July 27, 2016, Girish Sosa of Navsari town was caught by two members of cow vigilante groups, allegedly in possession of 20 kg of beef. Members of the vigilante group registered a police complaint against the accused.
On August 19, 2016, tempo driver Mohsin Mansuri of Surat city was arrested for carrying 12 buffaloes, allegedly for slaughter. Cow vigilantes intercepted the tempo at Neol checkpost on Surat Kadodara highway.
May 21, 2015, Ahmed Makda and his aide Taufik Makda were caught by vigilantes near Kaliyari village for carrying cattle allegedly meant for slaughter.
May 29, 2015, tempo driver Shamsher Pathan, a resident of Limbayat, was found dead on the bank of the Tapi river. The cleaner, Farid Shaikh, alleged he was caught by cow vigilantes who had beaten and thrown him off Savji Korat bridge in Navsari. Police registered cases against the cleaner and the deceased for carrying beef, and also a complaint against members of a cow vigilante group for beating the driver and the cleaner.
In September last year, Bhalej Police in Anand arrested Ilias Vora and Gulam Qureshi from Vidhyanagar town for allegedly transporting cow meat. Police seized 800 kg of cow meat and a mini truck. They were released on bail.
On February 4 last year, Vadu Police in Vadodara arrested Samadhan Dangar, Kishor Dangar, Dinesh, and Vijay Luhar for allegedly transporting 9 bullocks. They were released on bail.
(Inputs from Ritesh Gohil in Vadodara and Gopal Kateshiya in Rajkot)