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DAYS AFTER Prime Minister Narendra Modi told state governments to deal sternly with those who incite violence in the garb of protecting cows, the Maharashtra Police chief has instructed unit commanders to map the ‘connections’ between these self-styled cow vigilantes or gaurakshaks and illegal beef traders. The exercise aims to draw a list and take action against those posing as cow vigilantes for ulterior motives, according to senior officials.
According to a senior official in the home department, this exercise could be the first in the country where the state police are trying to prepare a ready reckoner against those who in the garb of being gaurakshaks could be either extortionists working at the behest of rival illegal traders or are those who are “extending protection” to ferry the illegal meat within the state for monetary benefit.
“The mapping will help us prepare a list of these nefarious elements who under the guise of being cow vigilantes are working in connivance with illegal traders to either lay trap on meat that belongs to their rivals or provide protection to these illegal traders to ferry their meat illegally within the state limits for a price. The link between the two will be exposed through the mapping exercise,” said another senior police officer, who did not wish to be named.
The officer also said such a list would help identify these ‘gaurakshak squads’ claiming to act under various umbrella organisations. “While raiding, these squads claim that they belong to some group or have affiliation to some political parties, but many a time we get calls from many of these gaurakshak groups that the raid was not conducted by their activists. This mapping exercise will help us ascertain their linkages, serving as a ready reckoner to take action against these self-style groups, if need be,” said the official.
Meanwhile, unit commanders have also been told to ensure that these ‘cow vigilantes’ do not misuse the provisions of the recently amended legislation, which makes consumption and transportation of beef illegal in Maharashtra. “The instructions are in line with the directives issued by the Prime Minister. The message was conveyed to the inspector generals of Maharashtra Police in the two-day long video conferencing that took place between Wednesday and Thursday,” Maharashtra Director General of Police Satish Mathur told The Indian Express.
The IGs have been told to instruct their superintendents of police and city commissioners to conduct this exercise at their local levels and submit report as soon as possible. “To ensure that these self-proclaimed cow vigilantes or gaurakshaks don’t take law unto themselves, instructions have been given to the district commanders to ensure they take stern action against them. This will also induce confidence among the trading community and ensure that they are not unnecessarily harassed,” said Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, Bipin Bihari.
In March 2015, the BJP-led Maharashtra government amended the provisions of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 2015, making sale and transportation of beef illegal. Under the law, anyone found selling beef or possessing it could be jailed for up to five years, besides being fined.
Earlier this week, in two separate incidents, the Maharashtra Police had arrested several self-styled cow vigilantes. Four people were arrested by the Nagpur police after they assaulted a 36-year old Muslim man in Bharsingi village accusing him of carrying beef. In another incident, the Navi Mumbai police have booked five people, including two women, who claimed to be animal activists and journalists. The five had waylaid a tempo at the Vashi toll booth Monday night without informing the local police.