NEW DELHI: In what could turn out to be the rekindling of half-century-old embers, a Delhi-based cow protection group is planning a massive memorial day for those killed in police firing in a 1966 agitation in Delhi.
On November 7, 1966, thousands of people led by naked Naga sadhus and other Hindu religious leaders had converged on the Capital and marched to Parliament House demanding a ban on cow slaughter.
“Seven persons were killed and several injured when the police fired 209 rounds with muskets on a rampaging procession of over one lakh anti-cow slaughter demonstrators in front of Parliament House,” the next day’s Times of India had reported on the front page.
That incident, largely forgotten for fifty years, is set to be commemorated on November 7 at a day-long event organised by Goraksha Andolan, a cow-protection platform founded by former BJP general secretary and ideologue KN Govindacharya.
He told ET that actually more than 200 people were killed in the police firing and the incident is still raw in the memory of sadhus.
“The details are being worked out. It is a non-confrontational programme just to pay respects to those who died and reiterate gau seva where sadhus, sants and gau sevaks from different parts of the country would participate,” Govindacharya said. Asked about Prime Minister Modi’s statement rebuking cow vigilantes, he said he hadn’t thought about it. He says he is with Mahatma Gandhi on the issue of skinning dead cows. “Gandhiji said that a Gaushala is not complete without a charmalay (skin shop),” he said adding that skinning and leather work is an essential business.
But the acting coordinator of Goraksha Andolan, Surendra Singh Bisht, reacted strongly to the prime minister’s statement. “Modi government is requested to not bother with preparing a list of fake cow protectors.
The real cow worshippers will come to Delhi on November 7 and register their names,” he posted in the Facebook page of the organisation.
In a town hall meeting on August 6, Modi had said that he gets angry when people, in the name of cow protection, do business. Modi had guesstimated that if documented 80 per cent of ‘cow protectors’ would turn out to be ‘anti-socials’.
Bisht told ET that the memorial would be attended by Shankaracharyas, other sadhus and several cow-protection groups from across the country. “We are also talking to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living and would also approach Baba Ramdev,” he said.
Bisht said they had also informally met the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) top brass during the Sangh’s pracharaks’ meet in Kanpur in mid-July for support. “They said they are in agreement with our charter but will not participate,” Bisht said.
RSS deputy chief of publicity J Nandakumar told ET that he could confirm nobody had come to Kanpur with such a proposal officially. “I’m hearing about it from you for the first time,” he said.
Another organisation, Rashtriya Goraksha Mahasangh (RGM), organises a commemoration of the firing annually. This year, it will be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, according to Vijay Khurana, chairman of the organisation.
RGM, along with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and the Animal Welfare and Agriculture Research Institute, had organised a day-long seminar on the socio-economic value of cows last year which was attended by several union ministers, including Rajnath Singh and Prakash Javadekar.
Goraksha Andolan’s Bisht says a charter, which is still a work in progress and currently has 21 points, would be presented at the meeting. Styled as “Instructions from Gau mata”, the charter’s demands would include a complete ban on cow slaughter, bringing cow-killing on par with homicide, complete ban on beef exports (including buffalo) and constitution of independent ministries for cow welfare at the Centre and state levels.