A MUSLIM-majority village in Uttar Pradesh state’s Mathura city has decided to use fines as a deterrent to crimes against young girls and cow slaughter, a practice banned across much of India where the creature is considered sacred.
Various reports say the panchayat (village council) of Madora village on Tuesday announced the quantum of these fines; girls caught using their mobile phones on the street will have to cough up INR21,000 (US$330) while a person indulging in cow slaughter will have to pay INR250,000 (US$3,900).
An Indian daily openly critical of the measure called it a “strange way” of combatting crime against girls. It said the council’s reasons were that allowing girls to speak on their mobile phones in public encourages “elopement” as well as puts them at greater risk of crime.
“However, instead of cracking down on the criminals, the axe will fall on girls,” the report by The New Indian Express said.
On the penalty for cow killers, The Times of India quoted former headman Mohd Gaffar as saying the move was in respect of the campaign against cow slaughter by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The hardline Hindu leader, who was in March selected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead the state, recently ordered a crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses, a move that led to the burning down of several meat shops there.
Mohd Gaffar said Muslims in Madora support the campaign.
“We, too, respect the cow and will not allow its killing,” he was quoted as saying when announcing the panchayat’s decision.
“We will also socially boycott them. In case a person is not able to pay the fine, the money will be recovered from his property,” he said.
On top of the fine on cow killers, informers will also be given a reward of INR51,000 (US$80).
Cows are revered in the Hindu religion as the mother of civilisation and many worshippers equate its slaughter or eating beef as blasphemy.
This rationale has seen a rise in cow vigilante groups that have been responsible for attacks on mostly Muslim people, who still see the animal as an affordable source of nutrition.
In one recent incident in Rajasthan state, a Muslim man died and four others were injured after a mob of “cow vigilantes” attacked three vehicles transporting cows from Jaipur to Haryana. A video of the attack, which later went viral, showed a man being pulled from a truck and beaten in the streets while others vandalised the vehicle.
According to a report from India Times, the gau rakshak (cow protectors) beat the five men despite them producing documents to show they had bought the animals for their dairy farm.
Many states in India started actively enforcing bans on cow slaughter after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed India’s federal government in 2014.
In Gujarat – PM Modi’s home state – the punishment for cow slaughter is a life term after recent changes to the Animal Preservation Act.