For one-and-a-half years, say residents of Mundetkalan village in Shamli tehsil in UP’s Muzaffarnagar district, they have been finding new ways to tackle the menace of stray bulls destroying their crops — guarding fields at night, fencing farms with barbed wires, erecting concrete poles around the plot and, at times, driving away the cattle with sticks. So far, however, all efforts have come to a naught.
On Wednesday, 25 “unidentified persons” from the village were named in an FIR for allegedly dragging 16 bulls into a canal and pelting them with stones for damaging their crops.
“A Class IX student who knew me was passing by the canal around 7.45 pm. He informed me that the villagers were drowning two bulls. I rushed to the spot with two of my colleagues,” says Vivek Premi, 24, Bajrang Dal’s western UP student wing president, who is the complainant in the case.
“Since it was dark, I couldn’t identify the men but we saw them pushing the bulls into the canal. Before we could get hold of them, they fled into the fields. They had spotted the ‘Bajrang Dal’ logo on my bike. There were at least 16 bulls. We also informed the police,” says Premi, who is set to resume his LLB course at Shamli’s K S College of Law. He had dropped out midway.
Sub-inspector Ravinder Singh, investigating officer in the case, says he and seven policemen reached the spot around 8 pm after receiving a call from the complainant. “The bulls were standing in knee-deep water, but since there was loose soil on either side of the canal, it was difficult to get them out. It took us two hours to clear the place,” he says.
The 25 people have been booked under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 at Adarsh Mandi police station.
Noting that this is the first time such a case has been registered at the police station, Singh also underlines the problem of stray bulls in Mundetkalan and neighbouring villages. “Farmers don’t need bulls in the field anymore, tractors do all the work. It is expensive to take care of them and so everyone has been releasing them on streets. They have been destroying crops and have also caused accidents on the highway. Since most of them are black, it is difficult for vehicles to spot them at night,” he says.
At Mundetkalan, a village of primarily sugarcane farmers and agriculture labourers that has a population of 4,212 as per the 2011 Census, most people deny knowledge of the incident, including sarpanch Rajpal Singh, 65.
“Aisa hua tha (Such an incident took place)?” he asks. “I am not aware. But it is the true that apart from sugarcane, the bulls have been destroying jowar, urad and lobia crops for the past one year. Eight months ago, I wrote to the District Magistrate, urging him to set up a gaushala and arrange for land that could provide fodder for the cattle but did not get a response,” says the sarpanch, adding, “We have tried all methods to prevent the bulls from entering our fields, but all of them failed. Some people suggested putting electric wires around fields, but we can’t kill the animals, can we?”
Most village residents The Indian Express spoke to echoed Rajpal Singh’s concerns, but refused to be identified. Ashok Nirwal, a farmer from Shamli visiting Mundetkalan, says ‘gau rakshaks’ in the region have made matters worse. “They have done nothing to solve the problem. They don’t take care of stray cattle or their fodder. It is because of people like them that the Modi-Yogi government will lose the elections. They are gunda dal,” he says.
Premi, who says his job entails “preventing anti-national activities” on college campuses in Western UP, blames the people in the villages for the cattle menace. “Who leaves the bulls on the streets? The farmers. They secretly release the animals in neighbouring villages. Sixty acres were allotted for setting up a gaushala in Jalalabad… people have illegally captured it,” says Premi, who is also a member of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“The problem started after illegal slaughter was banned. A proposal to set up a gaushala in every district was cleared recently. These are long-term decisions and will take time to be implemented. Work has begun though. We are developing land to provide fodder for the animals,” says District Magistrate Indra Vikram Singh.
The officer is also banking on another measure: “In one district in UP, tests are being done to develop a semen that only produces cows and no bulls. That may help solve the problem of strays.”