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Gaza & cows share space

- Sadhus and bovines hog jantar mantar

New Delhi, Aug 2: Gaza and Go-raksha (save the cow) existed side by side at Delhi’s protest square today.

Aam Aadmi Party activists had to jostle for space with cows, bulls, calves and carts to protest against the bombings in Gaza.

Jantar Mantar, the protest square in the heart of Delhi, resembles an animal farm these days. Emboldened by a “friendly” government at the Centre, anti-cow slaughter activists have set up camp here, with over two dozen cows, bulls, calves and carts in tow.

It has been over two months since the activists have parked the animals, ferried from Haryana, to demand a ban on cow slaughter and the restoration of grazing fields in the villages.

Delhi police have refrained from evicting the animals on the argument that all have a right to protest at Jantar Mantar.

“Jantar Mantar is the official venue for protest. Everybody has a right to protest,” S.B.S. Tyagi, the additional commissioner of police (New Delhi district), said.

The activists, however, alleged that the police have in the past tried to evict the bovines but were forced to backtrack on intervention by local BJP leaders.

The demand for a ban on cow slaughter and export of meat has gathered steam since the Modi regime came to power.

“Modiji had promised to end the pink revolution (meat export) and usher in a white (milk) revolution. The cows and the bulls have come to remind Modiji of his promise,” said Ram Shankar Ojha, an activist of the Go-Rakshandolan, adding the group had campaigned for Modi in Varanasi.

The activists, mostly saffron-clad sadhus, met home minister Rajnath Singh on July 3 and then agriculture minister, Radha Mohan Singh. Both are reported to have assured them that the government would soon take steps to save cows.

“Rajnathji assured us this time the BJP has a majority on its own and the government would take concrete steps to save cows,” Ojha, who is from Deoria in Uttar Pradesh, said.

But the activists are not ready to bank on the ministers’ words alone. Ojha said they would not withdraw their agitation till the government actually banned cow slaughter.

“We are ready to give the government time till November 9, when Gopastami (the day cows and bulls are worshipped) is celebrated. The animals will remain here and we will withdraw the protest only after our demand is fulfilled,” Ojha said.

Ojha said for now the animals were staging a peaceful protest but after November 9, thousands of activists would descend on Jantar Mantar if the government did not take action.

The cow slaughter issue is raised practically daily in the Lok Sabha during zero hour. BJP MPs, mostly first timers, take turns to do so.

Officially, the government has not spoken on the issue so far. While electioneering, Modi had accused the UPA of promoting a “pink revolution” (meat export) but asserted the need for a “white (milk) revolution” to save the rural economy.

Hindutva outfits have been demanding a ban on cow slaughter for decades. In 1966, they had organised a huge protest on Parliament Street and even tried to storm the House. But police mounted a lathicharge to disperse the protesters. There were reports that some activists died in police firing.