Cattle Trafficking to Kerala and cows & cattle in TN government-controlled temples
Seeking refuge behind the Tamil-culture-and-parampara fig-leaf, Jallikattu supporters, organizers, bull owners and long-ago agriculturists prevaricate and refuse to answer when faced by pointed questions –
- Why should the end purpose of the lives of these animals be reduced to Jallikattu or slaughter?
- Don’t these native breed cattle deserve to be cared for and allowed to live if not for their “inherent worth” then at least in the interest of protecting Tamil Nadu’s biological diversity, and thus protecting native breeds in cows and cattle?
- Why did jallikattu move to big cities with attendant degradation that comes with becoming a mega event with mega funds and mega betting?
- Is the jallikattu we see today with 500-600 bulls participating in one event the same as a village sport where between 15 and 20 young men would try to tame six or eight village bulls under the watchful eyes of village elders?
- Why not devote the rest of their lives to walking from village to village to persuade farmers to go back to traditional methods of farming through dung-based organic agriculture and thus minimise dependence on chemical fertilisers, to persuade farmers and cattle-rearing communities to use only native seeds in paddy and other grains, to raise only native breed cows, to not send the male progeny of the cow to slaughter, to raise buffalos whose high milk-yielding characteristic and the high calorific value of buffalo dung hold promising possibilities not only for dairying but also for small and localised bio-gas power generation?
In April 2012 when the writer was on her way to Srirangam she saw ten trucks over-loaded with cows, calves, buffalo and buffalo calves in just two hours, 7AM-9AM, between Ulundurpet and Tiruchy. Horrified by the sheer numbers of cows and cattle being transported in broad daylight to Kerala violating every law, rule and guideline governing transportation of cattle, the writer made up her mind that day to do whatever it takes to create awareness in the state government, bureaucrats and politicians alike about what was happening right under their noses and under the noses of traffic police, highway police, and check-posts and to put an end to cattle trafficking if possible through judicial process.
To ban or not to ban cow slaughter is state subject; while there is some kind of law banning cow slaughter in all states except Kerala and W. Bengal, in several states cow slaughter happens nevertheless. Bur because Kerala and W. Bengal have no law which protects the cow and her progeny not even partially as in other states (Only in Gujarat is cow slaughter, this includes her male progeny, total and absolute), and certainly no law which protects bulls and buffalo, cows and cattle from Andhra Pradesh, South Odisha, Karnataka and even Maharashtra pass through Tamil Nadu into Kerala while Punjab, Haryana and other northern Indian states send their cows and cattle for slaughter to W. Bengal not only for the state’s internal consumption but also across national borders to be trafficked into Bangladesh.
A small group of animal activists and committed Hindu activists decided to capture cattle trafficking on video camera. To this end they elicited the support of Blue Cross of India and armed with a night-vision camera this small group of animal activists, formed four teams, two to three activists in each team. Three teams monitored one of the five major cattle trafficking routes from Andhra Pradesh via Tamil Nadu to Kerala, for six days in June 2012.
It would require very brave people with iron self-control to watch the raw footage of cattle trafficking without breaking down at the sheer cruelty and barbarism captured on camera. The fourth team went to the Senkottai ‘sandai’ or cattle market (such markets are no longer about buying and selling cows and cattle for agriculture and cattle rearing purposes, but collection points for butchers) and captured the barbaric manner in which cattle traders and transporters threw live calves their legs tied up, into trucks and mini vans for transport to Kerala.
After six days of close monitoring of the Gummidipoondi-Theni cattle trafficking route to Kerala, we gathered the following facts:
- Transportation of cattle by trucks was uniformly heavy on five days of the week
- There was little or no movement on Thursdays and Fridays because Friday is the butcher’s day off in Kerala
- The three teams followed in their own cars every truck that passed along the route, to not only capture on video the horror of cattle trafficking but also to count the numbers of trucks on the route during a fixed period of time and also to note down the registration numbers of these trucks; several trucks had fake and fancy registration numbers while several were repeat offenders; we saw the same trucks on different days
- Between 23-25 trucks passed through between 8PM and 2AM; and if one adds another 10-15 trucks between 2AM and 10AM, around 45 trucks on a single route on a single day do cattle trafficking
- Each truck carried between 35-45 heads of cattle while transportation rules permits only six animals in a truck with two square meters space to be provided for each animal
- Simple arithmetic makes that around 7000-8000 heads of cattle transported to Kerala on one route on one day which makes the total roughly 40,000 cows (including pregnant cows), bulls, buffalo (including pregnant buffalo) and cow and buffalo calves in a week and give or take a few thousands, around eight lakh heads of cattle in one year!
Although this raw footage alone of cattle trafficking would have sufficed to awaken the state government to this gross abuse and catastrophic depletion of the nation’s cattle wealth (cows, bulls and buffalo) this small group of committed Hindu activists nevertheless decided to make a documentary on cattle trafficking with the intent to create awareness in Hindu society at large.
The writer, after three weeks of research gathered enough facts about this country’s official policy towards the meat and leather industry – enough, with the heartrending raw footage of cattle transportation for slaughter, to make a small but powerful documentary in English and Tamil about cattle trafficking to Kerala. The documentary lasting 32 minutes is titled Their Last Journey: Cattle Trafficking to Keralaand may be viewed on YouTube.
The three week research of the Cattle Commission Report (2002) and Dr. Krishen Kak’s brilliant article Where’s the Beef educated the writer thoroughly about the complexity of the problem – why even 67 years after independence this nation of Hindus has not succeeded in protecting the cow and her progeny by a uniform national law which will prevail in all states and union territories; why the domestic Asian Water Buffalo is being decimated in numbers dangerously close to making the domestic buffalo an endangered species; why India has emerged today as the world’s largest beef exporting country.
While beef in Indian government parlance is cow meat, in international parlance beef is also ‘buff’ or buffalo meat. Cow meat or buffalo meat, it speaks volumes about the total degradation of the Hindu mind, soul and character that it is the meat and leather industry which has replaced agriculture as the fundamentals of our economy.
- Tamil Nadu’s Hindu farmers and Hindu villagers sell their cows and bulls and buffalo in “sandais or cattle markets from where these animals are purchased by butchers for slaughter both within the state and to Kerala;
- Hindu politicians in the DMK, AIADMK, PMK, MDMK, DMDK, and lest we forget, even the BJP and the Congress know cattle trafficking is happening within Tamil Nadu as is cow slaughter and yet, as in the case of jallikattu, no party will make the call to stop it not only because of vote bank politics and like in Jallikattu because of the quantum of money involved and trade and commerce vested interests, but also because there are groups which claim beef eating to be a part of their culture and parampara;
- Hindus own the politically well-connected (of course) transport network, Thirumurugan Transport which transports cattle, including pregnant cows and buffalo, including tender not even one year old calves for slaughter from Andhra Pradesh via Tamil Nadu to Kerala;
- Hindus own and are also employed in abbatoirs. Promila Sibal, wife of former Union Minister Kapil Sibal owns a slaughterhouse cum meat processing company; while this lady first named her meat house “Arihant Exports” insulting Jaina religious feelings, she was later forced to rename her meat house “Arshiya Exports” almost as if she was exporting cashews and coconuts.
- Hindus (there are a few exceptions to this general rule) and Jainas who run goshalas (and the Jain community runs several goshalas around the country), however refuse to house buffalo rescued from traffickers, butchers and the cattle mafia, even the female milch and often times pregnant buffalo. Even the male progeny of the cow is a second class being and gets less and more inferior food in these goshalas; finally
- Hindus, and in some cases Brahmins have made their living off the thriving leather industry
Farmers who did not migrate to big cities and who stayed back in the villages were tempted to become participants in the Green Revolution which made our cows and cattle redundant to agriculture, destroyed the soil, depleted traditional water resources, marginalised and outlawed native breeds in cattle and native seeds in staple grains. Green revolution was followed in natural progression by White Revolution and now Pink revolution.
And all this happened very long before and independently of the Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu on May 7, 2014. Erosion of Hindu character and the failure of Hindu leadership at all levels – social, political and intellectual, are two fundamental reasons why we have failed to protect the cow and her progeny, and even today see no sanctity in the buffalo, and why we are most shamefully the world’s largest beef exporting country today.
The writer uses “cow” or “pashu” as upalakshna or generic (as beautifully expressed by Pujya Swami Dayanandaji in the documentary) for all cattle, including buffalo and bulls and all animals, including dogs, cats, goats and camels. When Hindus fail to protect even the cow as female milch cow, and they are civilizationally not even close to protecting her as pashu or upalakshana, the nation has no qualms about abusing other animals too – dogs, cats, bulls, goats and chicken, and all that flies, walks, crawls and swims. Supporters of jallikattu are emblematic of this degradation in Hindu character, and cattle-trafficking Hindus have been spawned by the money-spinning meat and leather industry.
Sub-Group VII (on Cattle and Buffaloes) of the Working Group on Animal Husbandry and Dairying, which was set up by the Planning Commission for the Tenth Five Year Plan proposals, had during discussions at one of the meetings of the Working Group, observed that “no breeding programme would succeed in this country, unless it was tied up with removal of the inferior genotypes from the population”. Quoting Dr. Bhattacharya from the National Commission on Agriculture, the Chairman of the Working Group observed that the most humane way of removal is through slaughter. Dr. S.K. Ranjan opined that the ban on cow slaughter should be removed from the States where it was in vogue. It was also observed that the Meat Industry in India should be allowed to grow as a major export thrust increasing the productivity of cow by removing the surplus poor quality animals from the population. (Opening paragraph in Preface of the Cattle Commission Report by Acting Chairman of the Cattle Commission Justice Guman Mal Lodha)
Not just the Tenth Five Year Plan, but from the very first five year plan, this has been entrenched government mindset and policy.http://www.dahd.nic.in/nccrep.htm
Point 15 in Chapter 2, in the Executive Summary of the CCR titled Cattle in the Planning Process gives a succinct account of the history behind how India is the world’s largest beef exporting country. Except for the Expert Committee set up in 1947 under Sardar Datar Singh to look at the feasibility and desirability of bringing in anti-cow slaughter law, all successive government committees and commissions, beginning with the first Five Year Plan have only advocated slaughter of our cows and cattle to give a boost to the meat and leather industry.
Hindus heading Working Groups in the Planning Commission and National Commission on Agriculture who recommended “removal of the inferior (read native) genotypes from the population” and made the official suggestion “that the most humane way of removal is through slaughter” best exemplify (Gandhi promoted and foisted) Nehru’s de-Hinduised scientific-tempered soulless Indian nation and state.
It bears mention that the Gandhi-Nehru hand-picked Constituent Assembly fiercely debated the issue of banning cow slaughter but in the end did not go beyond the mealy-mouthed reference in the non-justiciable Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution to promoting scientific methods of farming and animal husbandry, so therefore protect our cattle wealth. The Directive Principles makes no mention of the sanctity of the cow, leave alone cow as cow or cow as upalkshana. (Chapter 1 of the CCR, in the Introduction, point 13 summarizes the Constituent Assembly debate on cow slaughter)
Article 48 in the Directive Principles reads, “The State shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught animals”. In short, protect the cow and her progeny not because she is sacred and represents all voiceless and defenseless beings but because she and her sons are useful creatures. Hindus in the Constituent Assembly confined themselves to giving the nation pious advice on cow slaughter, but did not have the spine to stand up to Nehru and make it a law.
Notwithstanding the generally anti-Hindu leaning of Indian polity and Constitution, religious Hindus have continued to fight for banning the slaughter of the cow and her progeny. On a fateful day of 7th November, 1966, thousands of sadhus and sanyasis (some reports say around 10,000 sadhus, including thousands of Naga sadhus), marched to Delhi demanding total ban on cow slaughter. Newspaper reports of the times describe how there were sporadic acts of violence as the sadhus attempted to lay siege to the Indian Parliament. Indira Gandhi ordered the police to open fire and over 200 sadhus were killed in police firing.
A deeply religious man, Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda who was shocked that the police had opened fire on Hindu sadhus and sanyasis accepted responsibility for the shame and resigned.
Pujya Puri Sankaracharya, Swami Karpatri and Mahatma Ramchandra Veer went on an indefinite fast protesting the killing of sadhus; but except for appointing a high-profile committee to look at the issue of banning cow slaughter by law, which committee’s report vanished into thin air, Indira Gandhi did not move a fraction of an inch in the direction of banning cow slaughter.
This was followed by indefinite fast undertaken by Acharya Viniobha Bhave in 1979 and later by Pujya Kanchi Acharya Swami Jayendra Saraswati in 2001; but Indian polity and secular intellectual public opinion makers remained unmoved and as of June 2014 cow slaughter continues to remain a state subject and there is yet no uniform national law banning slaughter of cow and her progeny and no visionary ban on buffalo slaughter which is the Domestic Asian Water Buffalo, a breed specific to Asia, a vital component of South Asia’s bio-diversity and now dangerously close to extinction.
As wretched as the plight of cows, bulls and buffalo transported to Kerala for slaughter is the plight of cows and bulls given by temple-worshipping Hindus to Tamil Nadu’s government-controlled temples as ‘daana’, as an act of piety, of worship. In October 2013 the Vice Chairman of the AWBI informed the writer about the shocking state of affairs in the goshala of the hoary Tiruvannamalai temple; the temple city of Tiruvannamalai is a five hour drive from Chennai.
Activists of the Hindu Munnani stormed the temple goshala upon receiving news from bhaktas that they had seen half-buried carcasses of cows and calves inside the temple. The activists sat on a fast protesting the pitiable condition of 105 cows and calves then housed in the temple goshala, turning the District Collector’s attention promptly towards the temple. Outraged Hindu Munnai activists pointed to the bodies of a cow and calf that had died two days ago and dug up the body of another dead calf in the presence of the District Veterinary Officer. The activists alleged that more than a dozen cows and calves had starved to death in one month alone.
Unable to do anything else, in less than 24 hours after he was informed about the catastrophe in the temple goshala, the District Collector took the wholly immoral but permissible decision to hand over more than fifty cows and calves to Self Help Groups; this action smacked of classic washing off the government’s blood stained hands.
AWBI requested Dr. Raja and his team from the Arunachala Animal Sanctuary and Rescue Center (AASRC) in Tiruvannamalai to rush to the temple and inspect the cows and calves housed there and to submit a report to the AWBI. According to the report –
- There are currently 105 cows and calves under the care of the Annamalai (Shiva) Temple in Tiruvannamalai.
- They are given to the temple by bhaktas as ‘daana’ and also by people who can no longer care for them.
- In many cases the bhaktas also make a donation of Rs. 10,000 to the temple for upkeep of the cow or calf they have given to the temple.
- The goshala, is within the temple compound and the cattle were inspected this morning by the Arunachala Animal Sanctuary and Rescue Shelter.
- Dr.Raja closely examined the cows and calves. They are all seriously undernourished and have lost the ability to chew food.
- The caretaking is inadequate. There is only one caretaker and an assistant for all the animals.
- One cow, with grievous festering wounds around the anal region and two emaciated calves in very critical condition have been removed to the AASRC for intensive treatment and care
- The cows in the goshala are fed twice a day. Each feeding in total consists of 25 kg of oil cake, 25 kg of black gram covers, 25 kg of bran, and hay. (They never get green grass). This quantity is unacceptably inadequate and can sustain only 15 adult cows.
- There is adequate space, but no protection against sun or rain.
The cow and two calves removed to the AASRC did not survive and died within two days. According to Dr. Raja who submitted the post-mortem reports to the AWBI, the animals’ stomachs contained shocking mass of plastic and other matter which could only have been picked up from garbage piles.
Governments can be challenged only by street power or through the courts. Hindu organizations are weakest in Tamil Nadu and have no street power to alarm the government and therefore the writer had no option but to go to the courts for redress, as she had done earlier against government demolition of hundreds of Hindu street temples in the Madras High Court, against jallikattu and cattle trafficking in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.
To emphasise the indifference of successive state governments to the well-being of cows donated to temples controlled by them, notwithstanding even the orders of the Madras High Court in its orders on earlier cases filed by the late Dr. Jaigopal Garodia in 2000 and 2001, the condition of cows and bulls donated to temples remains the same. This is the operative part of the Madras High Court order in 2000:
We make it clear that the temples can keep with them the cows, which are yielding milk. In the event of stopping the yielding of milk, if they do not want to maintain, then, they can send such cattle to Goshalas, by way of donation, established at every District, with prior intimation to the donors. In any case, such cows should not be sold to third persons either for further selling or to butchery. The Goshala concerned can also request the Government for necessary further funds, if required, for maintenance of such cattle.
The Madras High Court unfortunately did not declare that cows given as ‘daana’ cannot be given away by the temples under any circumstances and that the temple to which it is given must maintain the cows and cattle until their death. The Madras High Court too made a commodity of the cow and made the distinction between milch cows and cows past their milking age. From giving them away to third party so-called goshalas, the Tamil Nadu government is now giving them away to Self Help Groups. We do not know if the recipients of these temple cows are religious Hindus, or non-Hindus.
This is nothing short of sacrilege and at the heart of this wretched state of affairs is the fact that Hindus are rapidly losing all sense of sanctity and reverence and do not react to any provocation or outrage.
In his contempt petition filed in 2001 against the HR&CE, Dr. Garodia pointed to the fact that notwithstanding the court directives of 2000, the Srirangam Ranganathar Temple was auctioning and selling the temple cows and calves to third parties including butchers!
Disposing off the contempt petition, the Madras High Court ruled –
“In the light of the above fact situation, we feel that it would be appropriate to frame a scheme giving the following directions to the persons/authorities concerned, in order to protect the cows donated by devotees to the Temples:
(i) The Temples and religious places where the cows are presented by the donors should be prohibited from selling the same at any cost.
(ii) Proper Registers shall be maintained by every Temple with regard to the cows donated to the Temple. Necessary entries shall also be made in those Registers with the name and address of the donors. Necessary receipts for acceptance of the cows donated to the Temples shall also be issued to the donors.
(iii) Periodical medical check-up shall be given to the cows by appropriate medical officers.
(iv) Proper arrangements should be made for looking after the cows in the cow-sheds maintained in the Temples and they should be kept clean and hygienic.
(v) In the event of the cows stopping the yield of milk, they should be kept separately and looked after properly. Such non-yielding cows should not be sold in public auction for any reason and they should not be donated to anyone, except to the Goshalas which are authorised/registered and maintained by the persons of good prudence.
(vi) Before sending the non-yielding cows to Goshalas, the officials managing the Temples should inspect the Goshalas in person and ensure that the Goshalas are run by the organisations which are duly registered.
(vii) The officials administering the Temples are strictly responsible for transporting the cows to the Goshalas and handing over them at Goshalas, after inspecting the Goshalas and shall also ensure that the Goshalas are being properly run by the persons who are trustworthy.
Nothing has changed between 2001 and 2014. The 2001 order of the Madras High Court could not have been simpler, clearer and more direct. And yet, not only have 5000 cows disappeared from the Tiruchendur Murugan Temple goshala, because these were given to third parties without adhering to a single directive issued by the Madras High Court but over 50 cows died within the Tiruvannamalai temple goshala.
This was not a third party goshala, but in the goshala inside the temple. Cows and calves died in the Tiruvannamalai temple because of the comprehensive failure of all concerned – the Commissioner of the HR&CE with whom the buck stops and who reportedly visits the temple at least twice a week, the Joint Commissioner/Executive Officer who sits inside the temple, the men and women employed to keep the goshala clean and to feed the animals. Had even one of these government officials and employees visited the goshala regularly, once in two days, the cows and calves would not have died of starvation and unattended injuries.
This is not the first time cows and calves are dying inside temple goshalas. In 2008 alone, 15 cows in the famous Rameswaram temple and 50 cows in the hoary Azhagar Koil in Madurai too died of shocking neglect. The audit report of the Srirangam Rangathar Koil revealed that over 150 cows had “disappeared” from the goshala located inside the temnple campus. A good friend sent to me a four minute video of the terrible condition of the Rameswaram goshala which he captured on his mobile phone. The video was shot in October 2012.
It speaks volumes of the Tamil Nadu government which seizes temples and temple wealth in aasuric greed but does not utilise the temple wealth to care for cows in its custody, that uncaring about the fact that 15 cows had died of neglect in 2008 in the same temple, the short video exposes how nothing has changed in the Rameswaram temple goshala four years later in 2012.
Readers are urged to watch this video and also the heartrending pictures of the conditions of our cows in these temple goshalas.
The incumbent Tamil Nadu government besides being in total violation of the Madras High Court order of 2002, and without seeking the advice of Hindu religious leaders or Hindu temple worshipping bhaktas took the unilateral decision to hand over temple cows and bulls to self help groups. No records are kept as to who receives the largesse and no follow-up is undertaken by the government to ensure that the recipients are taking good care of the animals they received free of cost – animals which some bhakta gave to the temple as an act of worship.
Thus it came to light from an internal memo of the TN government’s Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments ministry which administers temples seized by the state government that 5000 cows have “disappeared” from the Tiruchendur Murugan Temple. The memo (Na. Ka 12832/2009-2) dated 30-12-2912 was sent by the Commissioner HR&CE to the Joint Commissioner/Executive Officer of the temple citing a news report that appeared in the Tamil Daily Dinamalar.
The internal memo admits that –
- Over 5000 cows, calves and bulls housed in the temple goshala were given away arbitrarily to third parties
- Because there are no rules and guidelines governing giving away the animals given to temples as “daana” and because there is no follow-up after giving away/selling the animals to third parties, the internal audit and the audit report of the temple has recorded the fact that over 5000 animals are missing; and that
- In an earlier internal enquiry undertaken by the Joint Commissioner/Executive Officer there was found to be gross negligence and misdemeanours on the part of those employed to take care of the goshala.
In response RTI queries the writer sent to twenty different temples in Tamil Nadu many of them replied that they had sent the cows donated to their temple to the Integrated Cattle Centre at Palani. An intrepid friend drove down to the Integrated Cattle Centre and his report was that even a desert would be greener.
There was nothing there to merit its fancy name – Integrated Cattle Centre! No pond, no bio-gas power generation equipment, and only nine animals. And this goshala is spread over 265 acres of land and Palani Murugan Temple is one of the richest Hindu temples in the state and it has been seized by the Tamil Nadu government into its control.
“Tamil culture and parampara” the fig-leaf of jallikattu supporters has not been very kind to Tamil Nadu’s cows, bulls and buffalo. People who support jallikattu as high culture and an aspect of Hindu religious tradition have done little to fight the government on cattle trafficking or the plight of cows in temple goshalas. Making loud noises about jallikattu on the internet costs nothing. It requires real time, real commitment and real money to be animal activists and Hindu activists in the face of the challenge posed by the state government and entrenched animal abusers. (Concluded)
Radha Rajan is a Chennai-based political analyst. She is also author and animal activist.