GUWAHATI: The ruling BJP in Assam has signalled a clearer political agenda ahead of Assembly elections, expected in April.
It came out with a report card on “Gaumata” on Monday, days after passing a Bill in the Assembly to convert the over 700 state-run madrasas into general schools.
“CM Shri @sarbanandsonwal's tough stance against Cow Smuggling has led to sustained massive crackdown on the menace, ensuring protection of the livestock that has been revered for thousands of years. Here’s a look at some figures,” a tweet of the Assam CM’s Office, captioned as “Protecting the Gaumata”, reads.
The BJP let the electorate take a peek at the report card that fits well with the party's core narrative. However, the timing of it and the use of the north Indian Hindutva lexicon has raised questions.
As per figures shared through the tweet, 20,061 cattle were seized, 1,103 cases registered and 1,513 smugglers arrested since June 2016. The Sarbananda Sonowal government was installed in May that year.
Opposition Congress was quick to react.
“We already have The Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950 (Assam Act 13 of 1951) for protection of cattle. So, we know how to protect our cattle,” Congress spokesperson Bobeeta Sarma said.
She asked the BJP to read the Act before doing politics on “Gaumata”, a word, she said, never used in Assam.
“Cow smuggling has been on the rise during BJP rule in Assam. Lafiqul Islam, young All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union leader, was known to have been a whistle-blower of a cow smuggling racket involving powerful people. He was killed and till now, the BJP government has neither taken any action against the murderers nor have they been able to book the masterminds of this huge racket. So, the question arises -- who is encouraging cow smuggling or protecting cows?” Sarma asked.
The cow is an integral part of Assam’s agrarian economy. The first day of Rongali Bihu celebrated in April, is dedicated to the bovine creature.
Assam shares a 262-km long border with Bangladesh. Cattle smuggling thrives in Dhubri and South Salmara-Mankachar districts bordering Bangladesh. It is often alleged that a section of the police and politicians is hand in glove with the smugglers. A cow smuggled into Bangladesh could fetch more than double its price in India.
In October last year, Sonowal had called upon Assam’s indigenous communities and genuine Indians to stand united against “Mughal aggression”. His jibe was ostensibly directed at the minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), headed by Lok Sabha member Maulana Badruddin Ajmal. It was followed by Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s tough talk on “love jihad”.
“Love jihad today assumes mountainous proportions before Assamese women and girls. They are falling prey to people believing in Ajmal’s culture and civilisation. There have been several instances where such youths married Assamese girls by hiding their religious identity and the girls faced a situation such as Triple Talaq soon after,” Sarma had then said.
In the 2016 polls, the BJP had tried to scare the voters into believing that if the party was not voted to power, Ajmal would become the state’s CM and that it would stop the illegal influx of “Bangladeshis”.