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A mob of around 50 persons allegedly attacked gau rakshaks near Shrigonda police station in Ahmednagar district on Saturday evening, soon after they, along with police, had intercepted a tempo reportedly illegally transporting cows to a slaughterhouse. The Ahmednagar police said seven gau rakshaks were injured in the attack. A case of attempt to murder has been registered at the Shrigonda police station.
The owner of the tempo, Wahid Shaikh, and driver Raju Fatrubhai Shaikh have been arrested under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act. Shivshankar Rajendra Swami of Pune, who claims to be a legally appointed ‘honorary animal welfare officer’, said he and a team of 11 gau rakshaks had come to the Shrigonda taluka in the morning to “watch” out for illegal transportation of cows to the famous weekly animal market in Kashti village, held every Saturday.
Swami, 24, is a complainant in about 300 cases of alleged illegal cow transportation and slaughtering in Pune and other districts of Maharashtra, and has been assigned 12-hour police protection when within Pune city limits, due to a reported threat to his life. He is a member of the Akhil Bharat Krushi Goseva Sangh founded by Mahatma Gandhi and ‘Gorakhsa Pramukh’ of the Samasta Hindu Aghadi.
Samasta Hindu Aghadi chief Milind Ekbote contested the Assembly elections in 2014 on a Shiv Sena ticket but lost to the BJP. Before that, between 1992 and 1997, Ekbote was a BJP corporator in Pune. Like Swami, Ekbote claims to be an ‘honorary animal welfare officer’, authorised to keep a vigil on instances of violation of animal welfare laws in Maharashtra.
“We got information about a tempo transporting cows illegally. We informed the Shrigonda police about it. With the help of police, the tempo was intercepted near Hotel Tiranga on the Daund-Ahmednagar road, around 1 pm. Ten oxen and two cows were rescued. Later, we went to the Shrigonda police station for lodging a police complaint. We were hungry so we went to a hotel to have food, when we saw an armed mob gathering at the spot. So we again went to the police station and completed filing the FIR against Wahid Shaikh and Raju Shaikh,” said Swami, adding that the tempo owner and driver were taking the cows and oxen illegally to a slaughterhouse in Zendi Gate, Hamalwada area of Ahmednagar.
“Around 6 pm, when we left the police station, where some mediapersons had also gathered, a mob of about 50, with some carrying sharp weapons and stones, attacked us, leaving some of our activists injured. The assailants also robbed gold chains of some activists. Police rushed to the spot and controlled the situation,” said Swami.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ahmednagar, Sudarshan Munde said, “As per the FIR lodged by Swami, we have booked about 30 persons under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 395 (dacoity) and other sections of the IPC. Seven persons were injured in the incident. Investigation has been initiated to confirm the sequence of events and arrest the assailants.”