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Home India Cow vigilantes or extortionists? India Today exposes Maharashtra’s cow saviours

Cow vigilantes or extortionists? India Today exposes Maharashtra’s cow saviours

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There have been several cases across the country where beef transporters or even meat transporters were lynched on suspicion of carrying beef by self-styled gau rakshaks from various right-wing factions. India Today team met several beef sellers and spoke to them about the issue and the revelations made by beef sellers were shocking.The information revealed by beef sellers and transporters pointed towards groups of these self-styled gau rakshaks, who had started making easy money threatening them, if they failed to pay a premium to get their consignment into area near Mumbai, their consignments would be destroyed and they’ll be lynched.
 

In broad daylight, t

hese gau rakshaks pose as saviours of cows, but their real intentions were exposed when India Today conducted a detailed ground investigation through two sting operations at two major entry points of Mumbai.

GAU RAKSHAKS REAL INTENTIONS

The first sting operation was carried out on the outskirts of Mumbai on a very important national highway which comes from Gujarat carrying heavy transport. We are talking about Wada-Bhiwandi highway which originates from Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway near Manor and reaches interior Thane district passing through the Wada taluka. It is one of the most dreaded routes for businessmen getting beef from Gujarat. On this very route is a very famous cow shelter named Gopala Gaushala in a village named Angaon.

The Gopala Gaushala runs regular patrol on the highway and nearby areas with the help of Bajrang Dal activists and the team is called as Gashti Pathak. Members of the Gashti Pathak are feared by beef businessmen as they have built an image of being cow protectors, who destroy, damage if beef is found being transported irrespective of whether it’s cows, bulls or bullock beef. When we approached one of the key members of the Gashti Pathak, seeking protection for the beef we were getting from Gujarat and was to be sold in Mumbai.

The person called us for multiple meetings and finally what he revealed was shocking. He agreed to give protection for a decided sum and also assured that once he was in the vehicle transporting the beef, no one including police would bother to stop the vehicle. The Gopal Gaushala has been infamous amongst beef businessmen who cater to areas of Bhiwandi which is Muslim-dominated suburb of Mumbai. Businessmen claim that earlier when the deals were not struck with Gaushala’s Bajrang Dal activists, they would destroy the beef by throwing diesel and coal tar over it making it inedible.

BAJRANG DAL GASHTI PATHAK 

The Gaushala also has a website which boasts of cow protection and activities of the Bajrang Dal Gashti Pathak (Bajrang Dal Patrolling squad). India Today reporters initially surveyed the area after meeting some beef sellers and came to know about the Gopala Gaushala and its Bajrang Dal Gashti Pathak.

Accordingly the undercover reporters, initially posed as informers, met a Bajrang Dal person to provide tip-off regarding a consignment. He provided us with the number of Vasudev Patil, who is a very active gau rakshak and member of Bajrang Dal Gashti Pathak. The reporters called Vasudev posing as beef businessmen asking for his support and protection to bring a beef consignment safely from the Bhiwandi Wada Road. When he finally met, the meeting was recorded using a spycam.

The location he chose for the meeting was an isolated spot on the highway so that he couldn’t be seen by any other people. It was shocking that the same person who was referred by his fellow Bajrang Dal member from the same village for alleged seizure of a vehicle carrying beef had now started conversation on how he can assure the safe delivery of the consignment carrying beef. During conversation, he assures protection, in fact, he said he would himself sit in the vehicle and escort it safely to our destination.

Talking to India Today reporters, Vasudev, who is referred to as Vasu in his village, said, “I will get your consignment delivered safely to the said destination. You don’t have to worry as now you are in touch with me. Just let me know when the vehicle arrives, I will personally sit in the vehicle and when I am around, no Bajrang Dal activists or even police will dare to stop the vehicle.” Vasudev had been careful about the meeting and didn’t want to be seen by other members of his village Gaushala during the meeting. He was more than keen on helping the India Today reporters who posed as beef businessmen. During the conversation, he said, “We would patrol this stretch and now you don’t have to worry.”

Seeking details of the consignment, Vasudev asked how much beef was being brought, in what vehicle, would it be chopped and what could be it worth in the market? He said, “I want you to be honest with me. Don’t contact anyone else now. Also, don’t mention anything about beef over the phone. Just call me whenever the consignment is going to be here. I will wait here at this very spot and then board the vehicle.” Once the conversation was about be completed, Vasudev discussed about the money he would charge, he said, per vehicle he would need Rs 20000 for which the reporters bargain and finally the deal was fixed at Rs 15000 per vehicle.

THE SECOND STING OPERATION

The second sting operation was conducted in Navi Mumbai which is another major entry point to Mumbai. A large amount of meat, beef is brought from areas like Pune, Ahmednagar and nearby areas to Mumbai and they have to cross Kalamboli and Panvel to reach Mumbai.

This is where another active group of gau rakshaks who are associated with Shiv Sena are active. While doing the investigations, India Today reporters found a person identified as DN Mishra who is former Shakha Pramukh of Shiv Sena in Kalamboli, Navi Mumbai. India Today reporters found it hard to believe how party who propagates Hindutva and his men were involved in such unethical work. The reporters got a call from his associate/relative Rajesh who told us he manages work for Mishra.

India Today reporters started conversation with him. Mishra and Rajesh both had contested civic elections in Panvel, but lost. Once Rajesh met the reporters, he explains that due to UP’s Yogi Adityanath cow beef is difficult to get. Shockingly, he also reveals that once he had caught one person with beef on highway. He tried to settle the issue demanding money, but the person did not accept his offer after which his group burnt down the whole vehicle for which a case is registered against him.

Rajesh then took the two India Today reporters to Mishra’s Shiv Sena office. Mishra, who was seating in his cabin, he then introduced himself the two reporters. Mishra asked about the consignment and documents for carrying the consignment.

HOW GAU RAKSHAKS LET BEEF TRANSPORTERS TO PASS THROUGH

Talking to the reporters, Rajesh said, “We will settle with the zonal DCP and also help you with the documents with help of a doctor. Bringing cow beef is risky, but you can bring it by mixing it with buffalo beef.” When reporters ask Rajesh how will he be able to prepare documents for transportation of beef being brought from Sangamner, Rajesh says that they have been doing this for a long time and there’s nothing to worry. Mishra assures that the consignment will pass the area and the reporters need not worry.

He boasts about his connections saying, “I have been here for around eighteen years and have direct links with the Matoshree. From Uddhav Thackeray to everyone in the party knows me well, even the supremo (Referring to Bal Thackeray) know me well. We have very good rapport in this area. All senior leaders have farm houses in our area.” Rajesh takes over the conversation, and talks to the reporters, ” This is our Shiv Sena office, we also have a office on highway. We carry out patrolling for the whole night looking for suspicious vehicles carrying beef. Locals respect us over here. We have done a lot of work for them in the area.”

The two case studies expose the ongoing racket being run by self-styled gau rakshaks who are nothing but extorting money from meat and beef sellers in name of gau raksha.

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