Rajaram Bhat’s fast to nab cattle smugglers gets massive support
TG Rajaram Bhat who runs the Amruthadhra Goushala on fast against illegal cattle smuggling
Kairangala is a small village tucked away from the hustle and bustle of a city. It is about 30 Km away from Mangaluru and near to Konaje, which is home to Mangalore University. People from far off places visit the Gopalkrishna Temple and the Durgaparameshwari Temple in the village. Kairangala is also known for Amrutadhara Goushala which is run by a trust headed by Shri TG Rajaram Bhat. A noble soul, Rajaram Bhat and his team at the Goshala take care of the cows like their own children. He also runs a school in the neighbourhood which is open to everyone irrespective of caste and religion.
But today Rajaram Bhat is a beleaguered man who had to undertake a fast demanding arrest of the cattle smugglers who are operating only in his village. The cattle smugglers, who earlier used to steal cattle that were grazing, have started entering Goushalas and homes and forcefully taking them away. Villagers of Kairangala bear testimony to unrestrained cattle thefts in the region.
On March 29, during the wee hours, cattle smugglers brandishing swords entered the Amruthadhara Goushala and attempted to take away 2 cows. However, due to the heroic efforts of Vishwanath Kadwai, a Goupalak who fought against the cattle smugglers, they could manage to smuggle only one. Complaints to Police and district administration were met with the usual response of ‘We will do our best’. Seeing their casual approach despite similar cases of cattle smuggling in and around the village, Rajaram Bhat decided to launch a Satyagraha on April 1 in his Goushala urging the police and administration to nab the culprits and bring them to book. He has been on a fast since then with support pouring in from all over the district and elsewhere. The unprecedented support for the cause from common people and Rajaram’s deteriorating health rattled the administration which forcefully admitted him to the hospital on 8th April.
Cattle Smuggling is a Profession Here!
The Kerala border is hardly 5 Kms from Kairangala. The smugglers who are all from the same community, transport the cows to local illegal slaughterhouses in the district or hand them over to their counterparts across the border in Kerala. Kerala has a high demand for beef but the local demand too has increased in recent times, say many villagers.
Shivakrishna Bayaru, an activist against cattle smuggling tells us that smuggling of cattle had been going earlier too but after 2013 (The year Congress came to power in Karnataka) it has taken enormous proportions. The official neglect and apathy of the police to tackle the menace with an iron hand has given a free run to the smugglers. Shivakrishna, who hails from Bayaru in Kasargod, tells that “The aim of the smugglers is not just meat but they also wish to hurt Hindu sentiments”. He reminds us of two incidents one from his native and another in Dakshin Kannada. “In Kasargod a few years ago, a skull of a buffalo was thrown inside the premises of Sri Mallikarjun Temple. In another incident recently, severed legs of a smuggled cow were thrown inside the house from where it was stolen. Their intention to hurt Hindu sentiments is clear”, he tells us.
Endangering Desi cow breeds and crippling local economy
Malnad and Dakshin Kannada regions are the last vestiges of Desi cow breeds in Karnataka. Most parts of Karnataka have lost their native breeds and own only Jersey cows. Desi cow breeds give ample amount of milk, rich in nutrients throughout life. As every Hindu, the locals here too see Cow as ‘Gou Mata’ and revere it. Shivakrishna says that cattle smuggling is endangering the entire breed called ‘Kasargod Gidda’ which is found mostly in this region.
Smuggling of cattle had been going earlier too but after the Congress Government came to power in Karnataka in 2013 it has taken enormous proportions
“We get 1 complaint of cattle smuggling every alternate day”, says Shivakrishna, “and about 1000 cows are lost to smuggling every year”, he confides in a startling revelation. This means that the state is losing its native cow breeds at an alarming rate and the government which professes to work for the welfare of farmers and villages is doing nothing about it. It is this pent-up frustration that is behind the success of this Satyagraha he says.
Ganesh Bhat, a local resident and a supporter of Satyagraha says that rearing of Malnad Gidda breed is considered an auspicious duty. Amruthadhara Goushala rears many cows of this breed and also leases it to people who wish to rear it for a certain period. During this period, they benefit and support their family by selling its milk. More than 60 cows have been leased out this way from the Goushala, informs Ganesh. Thus smuggling of desi cow breeds is also crippling the local economy and taking jobs away.
No Funds for Goushalas, but Subsidy for Meat Outlets!
The Dakshin Kannada district has 10 Goushalas. The State Government is entitled to release funds for the maintenance and upkeep of the Goushalas. Goushalas provide employment to hundreds in the district and are also instrumental in safeguarding the cattle from being easily smuggled. However, except one, none of the Goushalas has received any funds from this government. They give one or the other reasons like delay in applying, etc to reject grants for the Goushala, says Kateel Dinesh Pai who is the State Convenor of the Goushala Federation. “The Animal Husbandry department does not give timely information regarding the application for grants. The Goushala federations themselves have to source the information which causes the delay. Inadequate information from the department is robbing the Goushalas of the grants they are entitled to. Due to this, maintaining the Goushalas has become very difficult”, he rues.
The president of the Goushala Federation MB Puranik says that the Government is not interested in the Goushalas or in the well being of the cattle. “We met the Minister for Animal Husbandry and requested him to release grants for the Goushalas. The Minister arrogantly replied that people from Dakshin Kannada are rich and don’t need any grants.”, he recalls. “Amount of one crore rupees is earmarked for Goushalas by the department every year. Even 24 lakh given last year were cut this year and the funds seem to have been diverted for other purposes”, he added.
Shri MB Puranik was also the target of Siddaramaiah’s vengeance against Hindu leaders. The ‘Go-seva Ayoga’ instituted by the earlier Yeddyurapa Government was dismantled and Puranik was ousted as soon as the Congress government came to power in 2013. “I am not really bothered about my ousting but without government support it is very difficult to maintain a Goushala and provide fodder to the cattle. Our own Goushala run by Govaanithashraya trust incurs a daily running cost of Rs 250-300 per cow and Rs 6-7 lakh per month. We have 20 workers to maintain the Goushala. Despite difficulties and no government support we have to continue by seeking donations from public as we consider it as our duty”, he says narrating the Government’s apathy.
On the contrary, the Karnataka Government in its budget presented by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had proposed setting up of meat outlets across the State. The Government had sanctioned funds to start sheep meat outlets at 40 places last year. It is also providing a subsidy of Rs 1.25 lakh for each such outlet. The Congress Government had also proposed setting up of the biggest slaughterhouse in Tumkur district and modern mechanised slaughterhouses in several parts of the State.
Is the Administration Serious?
“The smuggling is so rampant, that cows tied to a pole before house warming ceremony are being stolen overnight. There have been no concrete action or positive responses from police and local administration over numerous complaints over cattle smuggling”, tells Ganesh. “This is the 3rd time that such cattle thieving has happened in recent times. 36 cows were stolen from the same lady’s house in Konaje during the last 5 years. I have lost my own cow too which had gone out for grazing,” he discloses.
“Any government that takes over Karnataka after the elections next month, has to bring in an anti-Cow Slaughter legislation and implement it”
This is how rampant cattle smuggling is going on in this region. Ganesh further tells us that there are instances where cattle smugglers have threatened people with swords, knives and taken away the cows. In many cases, the aggrieved parties provide the details of the vehicle which was involved in the theft to the police. But with no concrete action taken, doubts have risen about the possible collusion and support of the administration to the cattle smugglers. He also informs us that except the police, no government representative has visited the Satyagraha site till now.
Sharan Pumpwell, Vibhag Secretary of VHP says that in just 2 taluks of Ullal and Konaje we have seen more than 20 instances of cattle theft in the last few years.19 persons of those who were affected by cattle smuggling are also part of this Satyagraha, he informs us.“In the last 10-15 years of my struggle against cattle smuggling, I have received information of minimum 100 instances of cattle smuggling involving more than 1000 cattle each year”, he says. When asked about the role of illegal slaughterhouses in such smuggling, Sharan says “There is only one legally operating slaughterhouse in Kudroli for the entire district. This has also been corroborated by our RTI to the Government. But there are at least 2000 beef stalls operating in the district, catering a minimum of 5000 kgs of beef. Where is such huge quantity of beef coming from? It surely cant come from one slaughterhouse! As per our knowledge, there are 200+ slaughterhouses operating illegally in the district. Slaughtering happens in houses and even inside large vehicles right after smuggling to hoodwink the police and the public. It’s a huge network”.
To the question, “Have the police and the administration done anything to check illegal slaughtering?”, he says, “Let alone acting on illegal slaughtering, the police instead have foisted cases under IPC 307 on our karyakartas in Udupi and Dakshin Kannada districts.”
Unprecedented Support for the Satyagraha
Supporters for Rajaram’s Satyagraha had come from Mangaluru, Uppinangadi, Kasargod, Perla, Bayaru to the venue and expressed their support. Saints and heads of various Mathas too visited him and extended their support. Shri Yogananda Saraswati Swamiji of Kondeyuru Ashrama visited the satyagraha venue and said, “Cows are our mothers and the backbone of our farmers. Cattle smugglers should be caught and punished”. Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati of Ramachandrapura Matha also visited the venue, met Rajaram and extended his support. He deplored the way the cattle smugglers are using force and new methods to smuggle cows even during the day.
The Police said that they have arrested two in connection with the case but will arrest more in the coming days. They urged Rajaram to end the fast. But Rajaram and Satyagraha supporters were unmoved and continued their fast. Rajaram says that the two whom the police have arrested are inconsequential as one is a butcher and the other is a meat seller. The police have to arrest the smugglers and bring an end to the culture of cattle smuggling that is continuing unabated in the district, he urged while addressing the media on 6th April.
Sri Sri Sri Odiyoor Swamiji, Senior RSS Functionary Dr Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat have extended their support to the campaign to nab the culprits
“The protest started on 1st April and with at least 1000 people joining in each day, it has become a movement now”, says Shivakrishna. “Rajaram ji is in hospital now, but people have continued the fast at the venue”, he tells us. Ganesh Bhat informed us that the satyagraha then spread to other places too where people observed the fast in temples, bhajan mandirs and community centers in support of Rajaram Bhat.
Sharan Pumpwell, Vibhag Secretary of VHP has been at the satyagraha site since the beginning. He has been instrumental in nabbing many cattle smugglers in the district and has also stopped smuggling at great personal risk. He says that, “Cattle smugglers are challenging the entire Hindu society today. Apart from smuggling the cattle, they are threatening the Gausevaks by brandishing swords in front of them. Despite our pleas to the police and numerous protests, justice has not been done.”He also says that “Hindu organizations will support the cause of Rajaram Bhat and we will take the movement across the district”.
The Fast ends but not the Problem!
With his health deteriorating Shri. Rajaram was urged to end his fast by his supporters, well-wishers and Swamijis. The police and the administration too gave their words on nabbing the culprits in a week’s time. On 9th April, after 9 days of fast he relented and ended his fast by consuming prasad from Udupi Krishna temple from the hands of Sri Vishvesha Tirtha of Pejawar Matha.
Sharan Pumpwell tells us, “Satyagraha has ended but the solution is still far away. Go-mafia has been rampant in Dakshin Kannada for many decades now. The aim of this mafia is not just cattle smuggling but also to hurt Hindu sentiments. All riots that have occurred in Dakshin Kannda during the last 2 decades have happened for 2 reasons; One, for cases of Love Jihad and two, for cattle smuggling. So to put an end to this and establish communal harmony, a meeting with Muslim leaders and Hindu leaders was organised way back in 2008. Muslim leaders and maulvis said that they understand the concern but nothing was done about educating their community members as both Love Jihad and Cattle smuggling have continued unabated in the district”, he says angrily.
As Rajaram says, this is only the beginning of a long battle ahead. With hundreds of cases of cattle smuggling being reported from all over the district, solving a single case will not mean much but the police is unable to do even that, rue the villagers to whom we spoke. Unless both the police and the district administration make up their minds to put an end to the culture of cattle smuggling, nabbing a few thieves will not provide a solution, they say. Agreeing to their views, Ganesh Bhat says, “The State Government too should understand the gravity of the situation and importance of the issue and pass strictures to ban cattle smuggling.”
Sharan reiterates this fact and says, “Any government that takes over Karnataka after the elections next month, has to bring in an anti-Cow Slaughter legislation and implement it. We also want the government to establish one Goushala in each taluk as this will address the cattle smuggling to a large extent. These are our demands and if they are not heeded we will organise a state wide agitation.”