#Lynch Mob II – ‘Gau Rakshaks Are Beasts’

On his way to a veterinary hospital with his cow, Kailashnath Shukla (70) was accosted by a group of men who claimed to be gau-rakshaks. On mere suspicion that he was taking an old cow to sell it to slaughterhouse, Shukla was beaten up and paraded around. He recounts the horror:   I am a small farmer living alone in my village, Lakshmanpur (in Balrampur district of central Uttar Pradesh). My sons have migrated to Meerut city for work and at this age I cannot till my traditional land anymore. It also gets lonely here without my sons but I have my cow Gauri for company. She gives ample milk to allow me a modest livelihood. Gauri is like my daughter, my pride. I have tended her when she was a calf. I consider myself her father, her protector. But I dread the word gau rakshak. For, a group of complete strangers attacked me recently on the pretext of protecting my Gauri. At this age (70), can any man bear a violent physical attack from a mob? Now, I cannot think of leaving this village with my cow. This happened a couple of months ago. Gauri fell ill and I had to take her to the vet for a check-up. As I couldn’t afford a dalla (a four-wheeler cart used to transport cattle), I decided to walk the entire stretch with Gauri by my side. I started early in the morning, after taking a meal. I could have reached the vet dispensary in one day, but Gauri being unwell and slow to move, I had to break the journey into two days. At dusk, I took a halt at a bus stop of village Sarsavaan. And the next morning, I started my journey on foot again. By afternoon, as I reached Juathan Srinagar village, I noticed that I was drawing attention. People looked at me with suspicion… and exchanged words as if they had identified a criminal. What I didn’t know then was that some local miscreants had spread the word last evening on mobile phones that they had spotted a man who was taking an old cow to a slaughterhouse for money. Soon, a small group of people began to follow me. A young man accosted me and asked: “Aur chacha….kahaan chal diye…gaaye kitne me bechne jaa rahe ho (Where are you going, old man? …how much are you going to sell this cow for?)” Amid all this minor commotion and among strangers, Gauri got nervous and freed herself to step into the nearby fields. As I followed her into the fields, I saw a couple of angry men walking threateningly towards me. Before I could ask anything, they attacked me. They used fists and legs to beat me up. I heard them accusing me of trying to sell my cow to butchers and that they would not let that happen to cows any more. They also asked me my full name and finding that I am a Hindu, they said, I deserved bigger punishment for being a Hindu and a cow killer both. I doubled over with pain but they took no pity on me. Once they had their fill, they painted my face black and put a garland of garbage around my neck and tied me up with the shackles of my own cow. Thankfully, a man informed the police and soon some cops came to my rescue. One policeman gave me an unsolicited advice: “Chacha maahaul kharab hai… akele mat nikla karo. (Bad times have befallen us, do not venture out alone with cows).” Was this is a caution or a threat? I wondered. This was the most humiliating experience of my life. My clothes torn, my face black, I walked on the road alone, but I still had my companion, Gauri, following me. She was helpless and a mute witness to my humiliation. My wife passed away 20 years ago. And in all these years, I have lived a life of isolation with no one to accompany me but my cattle. I had dedicated my life to my cows and look at the irony… I was humiliated for a cause that our chief minister, Yogi Adityanath has taken up with gusto — cow protection. An FIR has been registered and some of the ‘vigilantes’ have been arrested. But I still have one question for Yogiji. Is it a crime to serve cows? By cow protection, does he mean to punish people who have dedicated all their lives to serve cows? I know I will never get an answer.  ]]>

‘How Potato Growers Turn Floriculturists’

To the Barabanki farmers in Uttar Pradesh who traditionally grew potatoes, sowing flowers for livelihood was unheard of. They anxiously watched an adamant Moinuddin, a law graduate, sow several varieties of flowers and waited for the result. Today, floriculture is a blooming business in the entire region, with buyers of the yield spread across the country and abroad. Moniuddin narrates the journey:   I was a law student and completed my LLB in 2001. My family expected me to be a hot-shot lawyer in Lucknow. But I had other plans. I wanted to go back to my roots in my village Dafedar Purwa in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh and become a farmer. My family considered me a fool. They tried to chase me away to Lucknow. But my ideas turned out to be revolutionary after all these years. I am regarded as a floricultural tycoon in the state. In 2003, I started with my first experiment. I planted gladiolus on my portion of a 3-acre land and that year my net profit was Rs 1.5 lakh. Surprised by my achievement, my family members and relatives gradually started trusting me. They let me handle all their lands and by 2009, I had 15 acres of land. In 2009, I became the first famer to introduce the Israeli technique of poly house in the state. I had surfed the Internet and had done enough homework. Through this technique I could grow exotic flowers throughout the year in a greenhouse irrespective of the weather outside. Besides farmers in other states were already using the polyhouse technique. It made good business sense. One hectare reap of gerbera and gladiolus earns a net profit of Rs 25 lakh per annum as compared to the same reap of the conventional crops wheat and potato that is barely Rs 75,000 per annum. So gradually, I started growing Gerbera along with Gladiolus, rose, marigold and other Indian and exotic varieties. Today, apart from growing flowers in my 25 acres of land I am connected with over 1,500 farmers (which include 25 big farmers) from across the country. Some of my clients are even based in gulf countries. Roses, marigold and other Indian flowers have found a good market in religious places. I send my produce to wholesale suppliers from Ayodhya and Deva Sharif. I impart training to local farmers and even government officers. In July last year, I conducted a one-day workshop for about 100 bank officers from across India. Earlier in February last year, over 100 PPS and PCS officers attended a one-day workshop on sustainable and profitable farming techniques in harsh agricultural regions I have been rewarded in many ways. The Indian Railways have made a special stop at the Fatehpur railway station of Barabanki (about 9 kilometers from my farms) for picking up my farm produce and supplying them at various destinations. In 2012, the then president of India APJ Abul Kalam visited my farms and presented me a certificate of appreciation. And in 2013, Narendra Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat presented me with the best farmers’ award (floriculture). My real reward, however, is the job satisfaction I get. I turned my passion into my profession and it worked wonders for me!]]>

Police Encounter II – ‘Are Cops Above Law?'

Residents of Chirchita village in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, have decided to boycott the next elections. Reason: they want justice for Karamvir Singh’s family who lost their son Sumit to a ‘police encounter’ in Noida. The 22-year-old youth was mistaken by a police party for a gangster going by the same name, tortured and then allegedly silenced. The family approached the National Human Rights Commission and have dragged UP police to court for a ‘state-sponsored murder’. Karamvir recounts the events that led to an upheaval in his village:   My son, Sumit was a simple 22-year-old boy. He did not have too many big dreams. While many youngsters from our village joined the armed forces, Sumit just wanted to stay back and work on the farm. On September 30, 2017, I sent Sumit to the nearby market to buy pesticides. That was the last time we saw him alive. He came back home, lifeless, wrapped in a shroud. His body punctured with bullets. Sumit was abducted from a tea-stall in the local market. Locals, who were present in the market that evening told us that a white SUV stopped there and five strongly-built men walked out. They approached Sumit, asked his name, and pulled him inside the car. The wait seemed endless. There was no news for the next few days. Then on October 2, we were told to give Rs 3.5 Lakh to the Noida police for a ‘challan’. And then they would let him go. However, the police refused to let him go. We heard rumours that Sumit was soon to be killed in an encounter. Shocked and scared we reached out for every possible person/ organization for help –the UP DIG, National Human Rights Commission and the chief minister’s office -but to no avail. On the night of October 3, I lost my son to a fake encounter. The concocted story seemed straight from a badly-made Bollywood thriller. Sumit, along with three others, ‘robbed a bank’ and was trying to escape in a car when the encounter took place. While the others easily managed to escape the wrath of the very efficient UP police, Sumit was killed in an exchange of fire. The police claimed to have found some weapons, but in their account, there is no mention of the cash that my son and his ‘gang’ had looted. There are several burning questions demand answers. My son had never ventured out of the village, yet the UP Police claim that he had 12 criminal cases against him in Noida! Eyewitnesses, who saw Sumit being forced into the car, came running to us when they read about the ‘encounter’ and saw Sumit’s photo in the newspaper. The UP police will never admit this, but they mistook my son for someone else. There is another youth of the same name, in his mid-thirties who has many cases against his name and is absconding since 2011. My son lost his life because the police thought he was a dreaded gangster of the same name. Any admission to this huge faux pas will leave the police red-faced. It has almost been a year since Sumit’s state-sponsored murder. Life at home has changed. A dull silence prevails. The air is filled with paranoia. We do not let our younger son Praveen venture out after sunset.   There have been two Maha panchayats in our village with senior political leaders in attendance. Even the late BJP MP Hukum Singh attended one of them and with his help, we approached the National Human Rights Commission. After an inquiry, the NHRC has issued a notice to the UP government and police. The hearing of our case at the High Court will be coming up soon. Another maha-panchayat is scheduled to be held in October. We have full faith in the judiciary and our well-wishers, who have been a pillar of support. We keep getting calls from unknown numbers and offered an obscene amount of money for settling the case.  But we are adamant. We want justice for our son. We will continue to demand justice from the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister, or else, we will boycott the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls. A khaki uniform doesn’t absolve the police of their crimes.]]>