Reality of Gujarat's cow protection law: Just one conviction since 2011
The Gujarat assembly recently made amendments to the Cow Protection Bill making it the only state to punish cow slaughter with a minimum imprisonment of 10 years and maximum of life term. While the state's Chief Minister Vijay Rupani claimed proudly that Gujarat now had the harshest punishment for cow slaughter, there has been just one conviction so far since 2011.
In October 2011, the then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi amended the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act, 1954, by inserting clauses banning cow slaughter and the sale and transportation of cow meat. The recent amendment only made the punishment stronger under the act, however, despite strong laws, a 35-year-old resident of Gandevi is the only person to be convicted under the law.
On May 8, 2016, Rafik Khalifa was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of three years by a local court under various sections of the Gujarat Animal Preservation amendment Act, 2011, for possessing beef. This was the first conviction under the amended act and remains the only one so far.
The lone convict under the 2011 amended law was caught by members of a vigilante group when he was allegedly on his way to sell the beef. On July 11, 2016, four Dalits were flogged by self-proclaimed cow protectors on suspicion of cow slaughter but probe revealed that the cow had been killed by a lioness and that the local police had fudged the record to book the youths for cow slaughter.
Much like the incident in Una, the law has been abused time and again by those in authority and those who run parallel governments in the garb of 'gau rakshaks' and vigilante groups. In September 2016, the driver of a car was thrashed by cow vigilantes who claimed that they assaulted the man to save cows from slaughter. Ayub, the injured driver, lost his life in the hospital and a case was registered against seven persons.
Across the state, the police receive calls from vigilante groups after they have 'intercepted' vehicles transporting cattle or beef. Many times, the police have traced the owners of the vehicles and booked them.
Reports suggest that orders pronounced between 2012 and 2017 in close to 12 cases, the Gujarat high court found that the police had registered cases for either carrying buffaloes for slaughter or buffalo meat. The accused had moved the court for the release of vehicles impounded under the 2011 Act, that provides for their seizure for six months. The court ordered police to release such vehicles since they were carrying animals or meat other than that of the cow.