In yet another instance that purportedly shows that playing politics over cow takes precedence over cow protection, carcasses of as many as 60 cows were found in a shelter owned by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in Madhya Pradesh's Bhopal.
Calling it "a conspiracy" against her by the Opposition, the BJP leader, Nirmala Devi Shandilya, on Sunday, 30 January, told the media that she was an elderly person – and had been taking care of the cows for a long time. She owns and runs the Gau Seva Bharti Gaushala in the Berasia area of Bhopal district.
"I am a leader of the BJP, and I am known around here as 'Gaushala Wali Madam'. A few cows died due to cold and old age. How much attention do we give? Many a times, they consume polythene which often leads to their death. I am an elderly lady. This is a conspiracy hatched by opposition leaders to defame me."Nirmala Devi Shandilya
A video showing the carcasses was shot by locals, and widely shared on Sunday, 30 January, prompting administrative intervention. Nirmala Devi was booked under Section 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and Section 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code.
However, the incident only points to the larger mismanagement prevailing in the government-aided cowsheds.
5,578 Cow Deaths Between 2015 and 2021 in MP
There are nearly 30 cowsheds operational in Bhopal – a majority of which are owned and run by those belonging to the right-wing groups or by NGOs run by these groups.
In March 2021, information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by one Vivek Pandey of Rewa district (The Quint has a copy of the findings) revealed that the state government allocated over Rs 5.5 crore to cowsheds in Bhopal between 2015 and 2021. During this period, as many as 5,578 cows were reported dead.
Nirmala Devi's cowshed had received over Rs 35 lakh in the last five years. In the same period, it reported 63 cow deaths, according to the findings under the RTI Act.
Another cowshed – Jeevdaya Gaurakshan Evam Paryavaran Sanvardhan Kendra – located in Chhola road, Bhopal, and run by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had received over Rs 1.75 crore in the last five years. It reported 4,609 cow deaths during that period.
Talking to The Quint, Ashok Jain, President of Jeevdaya Gaurakshan Evam Paryavaran Sanvardhan Kendra, claimed that the high number of cow deaths is a result of cows being transferred to their cowshed from Bhopal city.
“We currently have approximately 2,000 cows in our shelter. All of them are very healthy. The high number of deaths in the past years was of the cows that were sent to us by the municipal corporation. They catch cows from colonies and roads in the city and send them here. But the cows coming from cities are either very weak or ill. Many cows come with polythenes in their stomach and die within a month or so. And that reflects poorly on us.”Ashok Jain
Bhopal collector, who reached Nirmala Devi's cowshed after the video went viral, revealed some stark details. He said:
“We found that cows were not being cremated after their death and were left in the open field. The operations of the cowsheds have been taken over by the CO, Janpad, and he has been tasked to look after the remaining cows of the cow shelter.”
It is not clear yet how long the dead cows were abandoned in the field. Harnam Dhakad, local resident and former councillor who filed the complaint at Berasia police station, alleged that the locals were troubled by a "pungent smell" in the area. That prompted him and others to visit the cowshed.
"In the last one week, residents of Basai area were troubled by a pungent smell... On 30 January, I along with two other locals went to the cowshed run by Nirmala Devi Shandilya where we found some cows dead in the compound of cowshed. When we treaded further, we found nearly 200 cows dead behind the cowshed. We are reporting this issue and demand necessary actions".The FIR read.
The collector said the dead bodies of cows have been sent for post-mortem to identify if they were infected by any disease.
He further added, "We have come to know of the allegations against Nirmala Devi for registering fake cases against people trying to shed light on the cowshed and its irregularities. All such allegations and cases will be re-probed and necessary action will be taken.”
Dead Bodies Are Thrown in The Field, Skinned, Left For Animals to Feed
When asked about the disposal of bodies of cows, Ashok Jain told The Quint, “The dead bodies are thrown in the field outside the cowshed. The skin is peeled off by the local taxidermist, and when the flesh is eaten away by the animals, they take away the bones”
But how often does this happen?
Another villager Janki Prasad, who met this reporter just outside the Jeevdaya cowshed with a herd of his own cow grazing in the open area, claimed that nearly 8-10 cows die every day.
“Sometimes there are 8 cows dead, sometimes 10. Many a times there are dozens of cow deaths and all of their bodies are thrown in the open area outside the cowshed. Cows die every day. I have seen them throwing dead bodies while my cows graze nearby,” he lamented.