We will stop picking up dead animals if we are harassed and tortured like this & Why should we pay bribe every year for the contracts of removing dead animals? These contracts are reserved for us. The rate of bribe grows ten percent every year. We are threatened by government officials that they will open the contracts to general category if we dont pay up. We should be given license for this work and not be expected to apply for contracts every year.
The Government doesn’t give us house, allowance for our children’s education or any benefit Government has done nothing for us. Why should we stick our neck out to remove other people’s dead animals! We don’t want to be killed for the work which pays us bare minimum! I wont risk my life for money
“We will stop picking up dead animals if we are harassed and tortured like this“
“Why should we pay bribe every year for the contracts of removing dead animals? These contracts are reserved for us. The rate of bribe grows ten percent every year. We are threatened by government officials that they will open the contracts to general category if we don’t pay up. We should be given license for this work and not be expected to apply for contracts every year. “
“The Government doesn’t give us house, allowance for our children’s education or any benefit Government has done nothing for us. Why should we stick our neck out to remove other people’s dead animals! We don’t want to be killed for the work which pays us bare minimum! I won’t risk my life for money”
The Dalit- Muslim workers and contractors dealing with removal of dead animals are feeling terrorised, scared and angry after recent attacks by cow vigilante in Lucknow. They are also frustrated with both the police and bureaucracy’s lack of initiative in providing them protection. Their concern is supported by advocate Mohammed Shoeb of Rihai Manch – “There is a deliberate attempt to dilute the offences in the FIR in the recent case of Vidyasagar and Chhote. The local police has not applied sections of the atrocity act and also sections of IPC related to the spreading of enmity between communities”
The speculation is rife among the Dalit- Muslim contractors that that this could be a ploy to open up the reserved contracts to the general category. If the Dalits and Muslims stop applying for the contracts out of fear who will get the contracts? Will the Caste Hindu really do this job? They almost zone out wondering why first rumours of beef and now cow carcass has been used to hit, hurt and kill Dalits and Muslims in last few years. Is it simply love for Gau Mata? Or is there a business model there? After all the big beef export business is largely handled by caste Hindus. Could they now be eyeing these contracts? They can always employ Dalits to do the dirty work.
On July 28, 2016 , Vidyasagar and Chhotey’s vehicle was stopped by a cow vigilante group two kilometre away from Indiranagar Police Station. This is one of the posh localities of new Lucknow. The two Dalit men were transporting a dead cow on Lucknow Municipal Corporation’s usual orders.
Vidyasagar and Chhotu were abused, beaten up and threatened that they would be killed if seen again with a dead cow that wasn’t properly covered with a Kafan.
Where is the Kafan? “Where is the Shroud?”
The vigilante men were livid that the dead cow had not been covered with a shroud. “Har mari gau mata par kafan hona chahiye nahee to tumhey khatam kar dengey”. Vidyasagar and Chhotu explained to the miscreants that they didn’t have the money to buy Kafan for every cow. That it wasn’t their cow. They were asked to pick up the dead cow by LMC.
The vigilante group asked whether the Dalit men would eat the dead Cow. Vidyasagar, a Dalit man of thirty something and Chhotey, in his forty are from Sitapur. They explained to the miscreants that they don’t eat dead cows.
What would they do with the dead Gau Mata, asked the vigilante men. The two Dalit men informed that the dead cow’s skin would be removed. Hearing this the vigilante group started hitting the two Dalit men and accused them of killing the cow, eating beef, being disrespectful towards “Gau Mata” or Cow mother.
On the August 3, when this reporter reached the Nagar Nigam office at Lalbagh Lucknow I couldn’t help notice how white the walls of the campus were. No usual betel leaf marks anywhere. Swopped and cleaned. Silent and calm. Well contained. LMC veterinary officer Dr. Arvind Kumar Rao mentioned that by the time contractor, Mohd Iliyas had reached the spot the vigilante group had left. The miscreants were in their early twenties. The Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) lodged an FIR with the Indiranagar Police Station after the matter was brought to its notice by the contractor. Was everything back to normal? Were Vidyasagar and Chhotu back at work? this reporter asked.
“Sab kaam kar rahey hai” Everyone is back at work. Dr Rao insisted that this wasn’t like Gujarat. The boys who harassed were not vigilante. They were miscreants of twenty something. It was not an organised attack of any cow vigilante group. Has such incidents increased in Lucknow? this reporter asked next. Dr Rao said it was a one off case. He, however, agreed that cow protection drive is on the high in the country. Dr Rao used the word Gau-Mata while talking about cow. He however, added that there is no killing of cow in Lucknow. “Only a mad person would kill a cow in this area. Miscreants just harass people. Cleaning the dead cow is extremely important else the rot will cause endless health issues in the population”.
Next this reporter met with some of the contractors and workers who deal with carcasses. Municipal corporations hire contractors from reserved category of Muslim and Dalit community to keep the city clean. These contractors hire Dalit workers to transport the dead animals from their owner’s house. It is on the call of the Municipal Corporation that the contractors send their workers to lift a dead animal. Municipal Corporations have a department for dead animals. Removal of dead animals is a serious task in any civilized society where a government and its civic bodies are concerned about protecting its people from illnesses. The men who pick up dead animals get a daily wage of Rs 300 – 350 from the contractors in Lucknow. These men on other days work as daily wage labour and make an amount of Rs 200 – 250 a day. Contrary to Dr Rao’s assessment of the situation we were informed that Vidyasagar and Chhotey have returned to their hometown Sitapur. They have decided to not risk their life. No more picking of carcasses for them. The contractors and workers repeatedly used the words “Khauf” and “Dehshat” while mentioning the mood at ground zero. The workers asked this reporter why spontaneous acts of terrorising them were so common now. They asked – Does it matter who terrorised them? Isn’t the issue that they were terrorised because they were Dalits? Does it matter who hits, hurts and terrorises? The main issue is that Dalit men were hurt and humiliated specifically because of their caste and the nature of their work.
Kamta Prasad, a Dalit contractor from Zone 1 added that such cases have happened in Lucknow before. He has faced harassment twice in last four months. Once he had rushed to Gomtinagar where his vehicle carrying the carcass was stopped by a vigilante group. When he enquired what was the fuss about, the men in Innova tried driving away. In that chaos the car hit Kamta Prasad’s head. He showed the minor head injury he had suffered.
(Kamta Prasad, Dalit Contractor of dead animals with Lucknow Municipality Corporation)
Mohd Iliyas and Kamta Prasad welcome Dr Rao’s idea of an identity card with phone numbers of LMC and Police Station. The identity-card may help their cause. Some contractors suggested that LMC should tell the owner of the dead cow to accompany the body till the destination. The workers should not risk their life for a few hundred rupees for another man’s dead cow.
Some other contractors insisted that identity card may be of help but the question is much bigger and humanitarian. Why do caste Hindus and cow worshippers not pick up their own dead cow? Why don’t they buy a Kafan for their mother? Why doesn’t the cow vigilante group engage with the cow owners and tell them to ensure kafan and last rites for their “Mata”?
They added that general caste Hindu population may never touch a dead animal, including the cow they worship. However, some business minded men may be seen soon as future contractors. “May be the Savarn workers will be able to afford a Kafan for the dead cow. We don’t make enough to often buy one for our dead family members”, one of them mourned.
(Meanings for English only readers: Mata is Mother. Gau-Mata is Cow Mother)