Death of a civilian and injury to another associate at the hands of suspected cow vigilante or Village Defense Committee (VDC) members at Nalthi Bridge near Bhaderwah in Doda district is both unfortunate and tragic. It is all the tragic that the killing of a civilian at the hands of such suspected elements in communally sensitive Bhaderwah town of Jammu region comes close on the heels of communal tensions between the two communities during the elections period. Sadly, the incident has triggered not only protests from the families of the deceased and his community members but also led to clashes between the two communities when the administration was caught unawares. The cow vigilante groups have been active in the hilly belts through which many routes are taken by the migratory Nomads from Jammu region during the bi-annual migration before the onset of summer season in the plains.
The administration cannot escape the blame for colluding with the cow vigilante groups and the VDC members, who have been actively involved in communalizing the situation to the electoral benefits of the right wing groups during the elections period. Such incidents have been taking place in various parts of Jammu region that too during the bi-annual migration of the migratory Nomads in various parts of Jammu region and police has also been claiming to have foiled bovine smuggling by miscreants. Such incidents have come to light despite the clear directions of the Supreme Court to respective district police authorities to keep an eye and prevent activities of the cow vigilante groups in all the states across the country. On the pretext checking bovine smuggling, some the Nomads have also been harassed and hauled up for no fault of theirs as they were migrating to the mountains of the state in search of better grazing pastures reserved for them for centuries in Jammu and Kashmir. Knowing fully well that the Nomadic tribes have been migrating during this season to the mountains of Jammu region and Kashmir Valley, the state administration has been found lagging in checking the activities of cow vigilante groups in different parts of the state. It is also a common knowledge that such right wing groups, described as fringe elements by the ruling BJP-government at the centre, have been making vain attempts to communalise the situation every now and then on one pretext or the other during the past five years. It is also no secret that such elements, who fall in the category of anti-social elements have been taking law into their hands for harassing the migratory Nomads and making money in the process.
It is also unfortunate that the Governor’s administration this year made it mandatory for the Nomads to seek permission from the local deputy commissioners before migration to the hilly areas from the plains of Jammu region. This has put the Nomadic population in a fix and they were made to make a beeline outside the offices of the deputy commissioner for this purpose. The centuries old bi-annual migration has been going on without any hinderance in J&K. But the gau-rakshaks have been active only during the five half a decade and getting patronage from the administration and police and having field day. In the absence of high mortality rate among the live stock in J&K, import of milching animals from outside the state has been a common practice, which has been disrupted by the cow vigilante groups and some VDC members in the name of extending protection to cows. The trade has been under pressure from the central government after the general practice of selling and purchasing mulching animals from the common markets in the neighbouring states was disbanded by the government agencies for reasons best known to them. The situation has taken a turn for the worse in J&K, which has been importing such animals for meeting its milk production requirements particularly after 2014 unprecedented floods in Kashmir and some parts of Jammu region when major part of the live stock was eliminated. The demand for importing such mulching animals has been high from the dairy farmers in J&K after their live stock perished in the floods. Though the police has acted swiftly in Bhaderwah incident and arrested eight persons, curfew continues to maintain law and order, yet police needs to act speedily against the culprits and bring them to book to create a deterrent against such incidents. Any lapse in such a situation has the potential of communal flare up not only in J&K but also rest of the country.