More than Meets the Eye: On the Attack Against A Bengaluru Activist For Reporting an Allegedly Illegal Slaughterhouse to the Police

03 November 2017
Javed and the DCP Shanarappa both told me that Neeraj’s car had “destroyed” Javed's shop. After the incident, Javed said, all the shops in the area shut down “because the owners were scared for their lives and livelihoods.”
Kedar Nagarajan
Javed and the DCP Shanarappa both told me that Neeraj’s car had “destroyed” Javed's shop. After the incident, Javed said, all the shops in the area shut down “because the owners were scared for their lives and livelihoods.”
Kedar Nagarajan

On the evening of 14 October, Nandini Neeraj, an animal-rights activist, filed a complaint at the Talaghattapura police station in Bengaluru, alleging that residents of Avalahalli, a Muslim-majority neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city, were illegally slaughtering cows. After filing the complaint, Neeraj returned to Avalahalli. According to various accounts she later gave to the police and to the media, her car was pelted with bricks and stones, causing it great damage, and injuring her and her friend Rijil V, who was also in the car.

Neeraj claimed in these later accounts that two constables had accompanied her on the second trip as well, but had fled as soon as the attack began. After the stone- and brick-pelting ceased, she returned to the police station to file a second complaint. She stated in this complaint that “we found ourselves surrounded by a murderous mob in a dead end near the slaughter house & the place where 11 cattle were hidden in inhuman conditions.” On 18 October, the Bengaluru police posted a press release on their official Twitter account. In it, the police disputed certain aspects of Neeraj’s account of the incident—the statement denied that two constables had accompanied her on her second trip, and noted that Neeraj’s car, a Toyota Innova, had also hit an auto and a meat shop in the area, which accompanied the pelting.

In the aftermath of the incident, Neeraj claimed to the Indian Express that Karnataka was becoming a “mini Pakistan,” which is being controlled by an “animal slaughter mafia.” On 17 October, the news channel Times Now ran a 50-minute debate titled “Will Anyone Stand Up For Gau Sevaks?” which chronicled cases of attacks against cow-protection activists. In fact, most media reports of the incident included only Neeraj’s claims, not those of the residents of Avalahalli. Neither the residents nor the police denied that Neeraj had been attacked—several residents admitted to me that a mob had thrown stones and bricks at her car. However, my conversations with them raised doubts about the authenticity of Neeraj’s account of the circumstances leading up to the attack, as well as the occurrence of alleged illegal cow slaughter in the area.

Neeraj and the police narrated different accounts of the events that transpired on the night of the attack. According to Neeraj, that evening, she and a few “fellow animal lovers,” were driving through Tippu circle, at a distance of around 300 metres from Avalahalli, when they saw “14 cows tied in the middle of nowhere.” She continued, “Near Tippu circle, we noticed that there were these cows and when we looked a little further, we saw some illegal beef shops.” When I asked her how she identified these shops as illegal, she merely said that “shops that sell meat legally usually have their licences outside the shop,” she said.

Neeraj was unclear about how they came to the conclusion that the area had an illegal slaughterhouse. She said that her friend Rijil, who she said was an officer with the Animal Welfare Board of India—a statutory body that advises the central government on issues concerning animal welfare—saw people taking two of these cows into a narrow lane, and he decided to pursue them on foot. According to Neeraj, Rijil found some dimly lit rooms at the end of the lane. She claimed that these rooms were being used to supply “illegal beef” to the meat shops around the area. But she offered no explanation regarding how they identified the shops as selling illegally-procured beef. She only seemed to be assertive about her and Rijil’s suspicions that the shops at the end of the lane were the source for the “illegal beef” being sold in the market. (I was unable to speak to Rijil about the incident—neither the police nor the Karnataka Animal Welfare Board was able to provide me his number. Neeraj declined multiple requests for the same, stating that Rijil did not wish to speak on the issue.)

Kedar Nagarajan is a web reporter at The Caravan.

Keywords: Bengaluru Muslim beef animal rights gau raksha cow slaughter meat industry