Across India, and especially in the northern states, stray cattle have become a hot-button issue. In Uttar Pradesh, in the run-up to the 2017 assembly elections, gau raksha or cow protection was used by right-wing outfits to create an atmosphere of fear and to halt the cattle trade.
After the BJP came to power, the Yogi Adityanath government shut down illegal slaughterhouses and banned the sale of cattle for slaughter, destroying the trade in indigenous or non-descript cows and bulls. The militant gau raksha movement has led to the brutal lynching of Muslims and terrorising of farmers, cattle traders and bystanders from mostly marginalised backgrounds.
Stories from Sitapur district illustrate how this violence has been bolstered by dominant versions of cultural practices around cow protection, which stand in contrast to the long-standing economics of cattle rearing.…
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