Prakash Shah–– martyr for cattle

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2000:

RAJPUR, Gujarat, India– – Prakash Amrutlal Shah, 28, an anti-cattle slaughter activist for eight years, was fatally bludgeoned on April 2, allegedly by three butchers who ambushed Shah with staves as he walked from his home in Rajpur, Gujarat, to the p i n j a r a p o l e (cow shelter) in nearby Disa. Found by a passer-by, Shah reportedly identified his attackers to local police, who arrested two suspects but told the newspaper G u j a r a t Samachar that they had lost Shah’s statement.

”Prakash Shah died on April 10 at Shrye Hospital in Ahmendabad,” said Gujarat Samachar. “Thousands of people attended his cremation,” including representatives of the Viniyog Parivar Trust. The Trust sponsors many individuals who like Shah fight illegal cattle slaughter and export with little more than copies of the Indian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and hope for reincarnation.

Two of Shah’s colleagues, Kapoor Shah and Bharat Kothari, were reportedly injured earlier by butchers. According to Gujarat Samachar, butchers in the vicinity illegally kill about 300 animals per day.

The Prakash Shah murder was followed on May 18 by the resignation after one year on the job of national Cow Protection Commission secretary R.C. Dikshit.

A retired Indian Police Service officer noted for exposing high-level public corruption, Dikshit told reporters that, “The commission was formed only to accommodate a few Bharatiya Janata party favorites in a position of importance. When I was picked for the job,” Dikshit continued, “I thought this would render me some opportunity to serve the cause of the otherwise neglected cow, to which I had always been devoted, right from childhood. But my association with this 28-member commission over the past year has proved beyond doubt that even the [Hindu nationalist] BJP means nothing more than lip-service.”

Dikshit accused other commissioners of being only “interested in milking funds out of the commission. All I was doing was receiving the expense accounts of the commission members,” Dikshit charged, “who considered it their birthright to get anything and everything reimbursed at their sweet will.”

Bags & corruption

Dikshit resigned following a series of apparently politically motivated but not necessarily inaccurate denunciations in the Times of I n d i a of alleged mismanagement of pinjarapoles (for retired cattle) and gaushalas (for working dairy cattle found at large).

Of 145 gaushalas in Uttar Pradesh, the state animal husbandry department reported, 24 were “nonfunctional,” three were converted into schools, one had become a community hall used mainly to host marriage parties, three existed only on paper, and half the rest were in disrepair.

Focusing on the fate of cows rather than buildings, Uttar Pradesh animal husbandry minister Phagu Singh Chauhan and animal husbandry director Hardev Singh ordered the chief veterinarians at their district offices to perform free surgery to remove plastic bags from the stomachs of cattle, a problem believed to be killing at least 80-100 wandering cows per day, and announced that cattle owners who allow their animals to stray will henceforth be charged with cruelty by neglect, rather than just “cattle trespass.”

In Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, the Mysore District Animal Dealers Association accused the regional Pinjarapole Society––one of India’s oldest––of misallocation of revenues from the sale of milk, dung, and livestock; improperly selling dead animals; and wasting a grant for shelter-building recently made by federal minister of social welfare and empowerment Maneka Gandhi. Not mentioned by the Times of India was what the Pinjarapole Society might have done to annoy the dealers, whose occupation is not normally associated with great concern for animal welfare.

PETA support for efforts to clean up the Indian cattle industry produced some results in late April when the U.S. clothing retail firms Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic agreed to stop selling leather goods from India. That brought the Indian national Council for Leather Exports to the bargaining table on May 11 to discuss self-policing to avoid commerce in leather from animals who have been cruelly treated or neglected. But Indian Railways reportedly continued to refuse Maneka Gandhi’s often-repeated demand that it stop hauling cattle to illegal slaughter.

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