The charitable trusts that run cow shelters in Gujarat claim that the government has not provided funding for the reported shelters, so the animals have been released, frequently into government buildings.
Stray cows attacked two youths in separate incidents last month, a fortnight after former Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel was injured by a stray cow while leading a BJP ‘Tiranga Yatra’ or tricolour march in Kadi town of Mehsana district.
Nearly 1,750 cowsheds run by such trusts, housing over 4.5 lakh cattle, had joined the agitation against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party by Sunday, September 25. They have also called for a boycott of the upcoming Gujarat assembly elections.
Several Twitter users have shared videos of cows entering government buildings like offices of the sub-divisional magistrate and courts.
that at least 10,000 cows were released on roads by the trustees of cow shelter homes as a part of their protest against the government. And because of this, traffic on the North Gujarat highways came to a halt.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat Gau Seva Sangh, a conglomerate of several such cow shelters that house old cows and sick cattle, told the Indian Express that at least 70 people were detained in the districts of Banaskantha, Patan and Kutch over the protests.
Similar agitations are expected to take place in the remaining Saurashtra and central districts of Gujarat, sources told the newspaper.
In its budget, the Gujarat government had allocated Rs 500 crore under the Mukhyamantri Gau Mata Poshan Yojana. to maintain gaushalas and panjrapoles
Vipul Mali, the general secretary of the Gujarat Gau Seva Sangh, told the daily: “We feel cheated. Despite promises made by the state government, the chief minister and several ministers, not a single paisa has been released till date. Meanwhile, donations have declined as people tell us why we need them when the government is giving Rs 500 crore.”
Mali added: “We have already declared that we will boycott the BJP as well as the elections. If the state government fails to meet our demands by September 30, we will launch a Gau Adhikar Yatra across the state.”
The Sangh announced on Sunday that the yatra will be launched from Tharad in Banaskantha on October 1. “With a gau rath, hundreds of religious leaders and gau bhakts will join the yatra. It will be taken out in five zones, covering every village of each assembly constituency, where people would take an oath to boycott the elections. Till the time funds are released, through the yatra, a protest campaign led by mahants would be held,” the Sangh said.
The state government is also facing a contempt petition pertaining to wilful disobedience of the high court orders regarding the handling of stray cattle and improving conditions of roads.
Sources told the daily that some BJP leaders from Banaskantha have reached Gandhinagar to discuss the issue with the state government.
Gujarat’s minister of agriculture, animal husbandry and cow breeding, Raghavji Patel, told the newspaper, “The chief minister sincerely wants that the issue should be resolved soon that the government could not release the money due to ‘administrative tangles’.”
“We had made the provision in the budget and also announced its implementation from April 1, but due to administrative tangles, this could not be done. But as it is under consideration, there will be a positive solution in a day or two,” he added.
He also told the daily that he had discussed the issue with BJP state president C.R. Paatil on Sunday, and that there will be a positive solution in a day or two on this matter.
Separately, the government had also withdrawn the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022, which had proposed to licence, regulate and prohibit cattle movements in the urban areas. The decision was taken after the Maldhari (cattle-rearer) community protested against the method of impounding the cattle and hefty penalty imposed in the Bill.
Cow shelter owners are protesting in the midst of a raging lumpy skin disease in cattle, with Gujarat being the worst affected state in the country. According to the report, the disease has affected an estimated 1.69 lakh cattle in the state, resulting in more than 5,800 deaths.