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F ORTY- YEAR- OLD Brajendra Pal looks in reverence when his cow stretches out her neck to be stroked under the chin. She is past her lactating age, and Pal -- a farmer of limited means in a small Meerut village -- cannot afford to keep her till she dies a natural death.

" I will donate her to a cow shelter or will wait for someone to come and buy her. My only concern is she should not end up in a slaughter house," he says.

There are many like him who at

some stage has to make such a decision, even more so now after the new gau- rakhsa rhetoric engulfed villages and towns in western Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2017 assembly elections.

Pushpendra Maddan, 30, who recently took voluntary retirement from the Army Intelligence to live in Naya Gaon, a village near Meerut, has four cows and as many buffaloes. " We sell buffaloes, but rarely to slaughterers. We never sell cows because they are holy. Poor farmers have to do so. There has to be a central law to stop the sin," he says. Cow slaughter is illegal in almost all states except Kerala, West Bengal and most parts of the Northeast. With the BJP- led government at the Centre, many observers see a perceptible crackdown on cow slaughter and beef sale, thus kicking up a political storm, as the industry employs thousands of people, mainly Muslims.

The recent lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri over rumours of beef consumption has also raised questions of religious intolerance.

But Maddan vindicates what has happened there. There was a reason why he was punished.

MILCH COW His reasons for cow protection include ' scarcity' of milk. " This pink revolution ( beef trade) must stop. I'm very happy that gau- raksha is becoming an important political issue, thanks to a rashtravadi sarkar at the Centre." India has an estimated 76 million cows, and is the largest milk producer -- 140 million tonnes of milk a year.

Monu Sangwan ( 29) works in Gurgaon. His family in Islampur Ghasoli village, Muzaffarnagar, has three cows. And, selling them is not an option. He says he has become ' slightly moderate' because he lives in a big city, but his family back home is ' very sensitive'. " We keep cows till they are alive.

We bury them when they die. Even today they feed the cows before they eat themselves. Those employed in beef trade must find alternative jobs. Cow slaughter is a sin," says Sangwan, a project manager with a top MNC. But a large number of people do sell their cattle to be slaughtered.

A cattle smuggling trade worth $ 600 million a year has been on the rise with two million cows and bulls trafficked across the border to Bangladesh every year, as per a Reuters report published in July. Indian border guards under the BJP- led government have launched a crackdown. But buffalo slaughter is permitted.

In fact, India is the world's top beef ( buffalo meat) exporter and fifth biggest consumer. Rightwing vigilante protectors fear cow meat is also being exported as buffalo meat.

BOVINE CARE " We had to sell our cow to a butcher in 2005 after she became unproductive," says Sumit Katha a Baghpat resident.

People like Sumit Singh, 32, a government school teacher in Shamli, however, do not believe in violence to protect cows. " We donated our cattle to a cow shelter when we couldn't manage them.

We feel bad when we hear cases of MESS

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Oct 11, 2015
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