In the Name of the Mother

How the state nurtures the gau rakshaks of Haryana

01 September 2016
Every night, members of the Gau Raksha Dal Haryana patrol the highways in SUVs, armed with lathis, rods, hockey sticks, baseball bats, stones and spike strips, looking for cow smugglers.

ON A SATURDAY NIGHT IN APRIL, at around 9 pm, I rode a motorcycle to the outskirts of Haryana’s Jhajjar town, 20 kilometres west of Delhi, accompanied by a photographer.

“Bhrata shree,” an enthusiastic Gau Raksha Dal, or GRD, activist had addressed me over the phone earlier that evening, using the Sanskrit word for brother. “Come whenever you want. We’ll start the gasht”—patrol—“once you’re here,” he said.

The location he had called us to was an unlit and isolated stretch of road, right before National Highway 334B, about a kilometre from Jhajjar bypass. I stopped the motorcycle after spotting a group of 20 men, all gau rakshaks, or cow-protection vigilantes, milling about near two parked SUVs—a Scorpio and a Mahindra Bolero. Close by, there was a police control room van with five uniformed policemen. Some of the vigilantes, too, were in a uniform of sorts: white T-shirts bearing the insignia of GRD Haryana—a bejewelled cow, framed by a pair of crossed daggers, and flanked on each side by AK-47s. Under this was a couplet: Apni laashon se gaumata ke gulshan ko aabaad rakhenge! Woh ladai hogi ki gaumata ke dushman bhi yaad rakhenge!—Our corpses shall keep the cow mother’s garden flourishing! We’ll give the enemies of cow mother a fight they’ll never forget!

Ishan Marvel is a reporter at Vantage, The Caravan.

Keywords: Ambedkar nationalism Muslim Modi Dalit BJP RSS beef Hindutva communalism caste violence communal violence Haryana anti-national gau raksha cow protection intolerance