Clad in saffron, his forehead smeared with the sacred ashtagandha paste and a rudraksha mala dangling around his neck, the tonsured monk was at ease in his large government office as visitors touched his feet and sought his blessings.“The third world war will start over a cow,’’ declared Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri, chairman of executive council of the Madhya Pradesh Gaupalan Evam Pashudhan Samvardhan Board, a position that tasks him with protecting and conserving the cow in a state with a recent history of vigilantism. He is the first religious person to hold the post.
“The cow has always been a source of contention. There are references in mythology and the first war of independence in 1857 began over the cow,” said the swami, 61, who got the title of Mahamandleshwar of Niranjani Akhara in March 2010, nearly 12 years after he had taken sanyasi deeksha.
“It’s natural for gau rakshaks to get angry when they see dead or injured cows packed in vehicles because it’s an emotive issue for them,” he said. “They should not take the law into their own hands and should wait for the police to come once they stop such vehicles. When all states pass stricter anti-cow slaughter laws, smuggling of cattle through state borders will become impossible.”
Before taking deeksha, the former VHP office-bearer was associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and involved in “reconversion” of Christians to Hinduism in MP and Chhattisgarh. A firm believer in the divinity of the desi cow, he says its milk, urine and dung have medicinal qualities that can fight diseases like cancer and epilepsy.
Born Dhruvnarayan Dubey in Chhindwara, the swami says his hands are full as a lot needs to be done to further the work of cow conservation, research and awareness. He says he has learnt that the chief minister has agreed in principle to start a separate Gau Mantralaya (cow ministry).
To begin with, he has decided to sensitise officials of the animal husbandry department under which the cow protection board functions, asking them to watch their words when it comes to the working of the board unlike other wings that deal with other animals.
“They can’t use words like ‘inspection’ when it comes to visiting gaushalas, and should choose ‘gaumata darshan’. Words like ‘inspection’ give the impression that they are superior, which is not the case. If they use darshan, their outlook will change,’’ he told The Indian Express. He said he would soon write to the animal husbandry department. His staff has already started using that expression in reference his own visits to gaushalas.
He said the Rs 18 crore fund the board receives from the government is meagre, for the requirement is “at least Rs 100 crore”. He is set to write to MLAs and MPs from Madhya Pradesh to spare part of their constituency funds for the welfare of cows. He said he expects each MP to contribute Rs 15 lakh to buy an ambulance in each of the district in the state, and expects every MLA to contribute Rs 15,000 to enable the board start gaugrass raths, or vehicles that will move from door to door collecting food and leftovers to feed the cow. The project will begin on a pilot basis from cities.
There are more than 575 recognized gaushalas in the state. He says most of them can become self-sufficient and start their own research about cow products.
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