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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Madhya Pradesh: Cow at centre of communal tension lives in neglect at shelter

Tests, conducted in Ashok Nagar and later in Bhopal, showed that the injuries had been caused by a blunt object, not a gunshot.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal | Published: September 6, 2017 3:39:30 am
With its calf at the shelter. Milind Ghatwai

A cow whose injury allegedly led to a suicide, caused seven Muslims to be sent to jail and created a communal divide in Silawan, a sleepy village in Madhya Pradesh’s Ashok Nagar district, has since been abandoned at a shelter home in Bhopal, nearly 225 km away. The pregnant cow was taken to the government veterinary hospital in Bhopal on May 5, a week after it was injured. Hindu villagers alleged that one Akhtar Khan had shot at the animal. Worried that the cow’s presence — and possible death — would aggravate communal tension, the police sent it to the MP capital with owner Ghanashyam Lodhi, his nephew Sunil and a constable.

Tests, conducted in Ashok Nagar and later in Bhopal, showed that the injuries had been caused by a blunt object, not a gunshot.

While the cow was still being treated, Ghanashyam hanged himself on the hospital premises while Sunil slept some distance away.

After the body was taken to Silawan, Sunil alleged that six Muslim villagers had come to Bhopal and that one put a gun to his head while the rest took away his uncle, who was found dead the next morning. Before leaving Bhopal, Sunil had claimed that some relatives of Akhtar Khan had offered money to Ghanashyam to withdraw the case.

While Akhtar was jailed for allegedly injuring the cow, six others were booked for abetment of suicide as hundreds of villagers laid siege on Piprai Police Station, under whose jurisdiction the village falls, threatening that they wouldn’t cremate the body until a case was registered against the accused. The six were arrested and sent to jail and released on bail after spending several weeks in jail.

Meanwhile, the cow was moved to a place behind the hospital and from there to Aasra, a shelter run by the animal husbandry department in Jahangirabad. The cow delivered a calf. “It had nearly died. We managed to revive it,’’ said a caretaker at the shelter.

The calf, born premature, is weak like its mother. But there is little to separate them from other animals in the shelter that is replete with dung, urine and fodder.

“What will do with the cow? Ghanashyam is no more and his family has no means to support it. Who will pay for the cow’s transportation from Bhopal to Silwan?” said Sunil. Family members and villagers claimed that Ghanashyam loved his cow so much that he could not bear the injury and ended his life.

Muslims of the village, on the other hand, alleged that Ghanashyam had been told he would get money should it be proved that the injuries were from gunshots, but took his life when tests proved otherwise. “He was a simple man and never fought with anyone,” said Pappu Khan, a relative of the accused.

Piprai police station in-charge Vijay Bundela said all Muslims are out on bail and trial in the case has begun. “It’s not our responsibility to bring the cow. Let the owner’s family take a call on it,” he said. Bundela was transferred to the police station after the entire staff had been removed in the wake of allegations and counter-allegations. While the Hindu villagers accused the police of deliberately weakening a case against Muslims, the Muslims accused them of buckling under pressure from the majority and booking them under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the IPC.

Bundela claimed the police had acted under pressure because a 2,000-strong mob had gathered outside the police station. “I myself spent days in the village because the atmosphere was very tense,” he said.

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