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Who are the beneficiaries of Cow violence?


Naaz Khair

naazOwing to conducive climate and topography, Animal husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries Sectors have played prominent socio-economic role in India. Traditional, cultural and religious beliefs have also contributed in the continuance of these activities. Further, they also play a significant role in generating gainful employment in the rural sector, particularly among the landless, small and marginal farmers and women, besides providing cheap and nutritious food to millions of people (Annual Report 2016-17, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Government of India).

India occupies the first place in the world in terms of livestock population1, cattle inventory2, milk production and beef exports. And, it is the second largest producer of footwear and leather garments in the world3. Cattle (including buffalos), goat and sheep drive the dairy, beef and leather industries in the Country. The continued involvement for centuries of a number of Bahujan (SC/ST/OBC of all religions) occupational groups with these livestock for livelihood has conserved and multiplied them. Agriculture along with livestock is the mainstay of Bahujan livelihoods and economic, social and cultural ties among them. The non-materialistic approach of Bahujans in agriculture and livestock rearing has played a big role in protecting the environment. The term Pasmanda (Persian word meaning ‘oppressed’) is used for Bahujan Muslims (Hindu SC/ST/OBC converted to Islam) in this article.

Forces opposed to Bahujan Empowerment have always been present to weaken the hold of Bahujans on livelihoods historically shaped by them. Before Bahujans could benefit from the wealth created by them, anti-Bahujan policies are put in place to undo their accomplishments. This article examines one such policy of the Government, namely, ‘Make in India’4.

Is ‘Make in India ‘, a Government policy set to weaken Bahujan livelihoods and socio-economic-cultural development? The focus of this article is on Make in India program designs in the dairy, beef and leather sectors.

The Make in India is an initiative devised to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub. It was launched by the BJP Government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few months after coming to power in 2014. Make in India is about the transformational power of public-private partnership and extends to include India’s global partners, chiefly, the United States and Japan. It covers 25 sectors of the Indian economy. Food processing and leather sectors are among the 25 sectors covered under Make in India. Dairy and beef exports fall under the food processing sector. 25 sector brochures have been developed to make these sectors appear extremely inviting to the private sector in India and foreign companies. These brochures amply showcase ‘ease of doing business’ put in place by India.

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Brochure-‘Make in India- Leather’: Speaks, among other things, of opportunity to set-up export units, opportunity to tap huge domestic market in India, comparative advantages in cost of production and labour costs as compared to other major manufacturing countries, skilled/trained manpower available for a new production unit or existing production unit, 100% Foreign Direct Investment permitted through the automatic route, de-licensing of the entire leather product, facilitating expansion on modern lines with state-of-the-art machinery and equipment and a whole lot of Government financial support through several schemes.

Brochure-Dairy Farming and Beef Exports under Food Processing ‘Make in India’ sector: Includes, among other things, the scheme of Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure wherein the concerned Ministry is assisting 228 such projects, and in 2017, 16 projects got operational, creating an additional capacity of 0.24 million metric tonnes of cold storage, 72.70 metric tonnes per hour of individual Quick Freezing (IQF), 3.45 million litres per day of Milk processing/storage and 472 reefer vans during 2014 – 2017, a Dairy Processing & Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF) has been set up with an outlay of USD 1.67 billion during the period from 2017-18 to 2028-29. 4 Abattoirs projects have been completed. Under the scheme of Modernization of Abattoirs, one project at Panaji (Goa) has been made operational. 100% FDI is permitted under the automatic route in food processing industries, 100% FDI is allowed through government approved route for trading, including through e-commerce in respect of food products manufactured or produced in India. Finally, the Government has pledged a whole lot of financial support and tax holidays.

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 Rollout of ‘Make in India’: An expenditure of Rs 1,484-crore has been incurred on chartered flights, maintenance of aircraft and hotline facilities during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visits to 84 countries since June 2014 evidently to enhance engagement of India’s foreign partners in its flagship programmes including ‘Make in India’5. A press statement6 of one such foreign trips of the Prime Minister reads as follows: ‘The Prime Ministers pledged to deepen cooperation between the Nordic countries and India, and focused their discussions on key issues related to global security, economic growth, innovation and climate change. The Prime Ministers reaffirmed the importance of free trade as a catalyst for achieving inclusive growth and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. Nordic solutions in clean technologies, maritime solutions, port modernization, food processing, health, life-sciences and agriculture were mentioned. The Ease of Doing Business practices were emphasized as a priority for both the Nordic countries and India’. (some portions of the press statement following the summit between India and the Nordic Countries in April, 2018)

Is India’s development agenda, in the context of climate change, pro or anti local communities made up primarily of Bahujan caste groups in traditional occupations? It appears to be anti-Bahujan because while it has been ease of doing business for India’s private companies and its foreign partners in the leather, dairy and beef sectors, it has become almost impossible for the traditional workers to carry on with their business as usual due to stricter implementation of cow protection laws via cow vigilantism and mob lynching targeting their work in these sectors. Are there links between stricter implementation of cow protection laws, NGT (National Green Tribunal) and PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) interventions and implementation of Make in India? Are they working in tandem with each other? Who are victims of their coming together? And who are the beneficiaries? The following paragraphs consisting of media reports seek to answer these questions.

1. 140 abattoirs and over 50,000 meat shops were declared illegal or without permission to operate in Uttar Pradesh (IANS, 2017), hitting production and sale of meat. The meat Industry in Uttar Pradesh, in fact the whole country, is dominated by the Kasai (Butchers) caste. Kasais are Pasmanda Muslims.

2. The ban on trading cattle for slaughter, including not just cows, whose killing was already outlawed in most states, but also buffalo, an animal used for meat and leather, led to pasmanda Muslims and Hindu dalits who cart cattle, labour in tanneries and make shoes, bags and belts lose their work (Reuters, 2017).

3. Millions of Bahujans work in the meat and leather industries. When Reuters visited the narrow shoemaking lanes of Agra in June, 2017, a crowd of Muslims gathered, shouting angrily that they were no longer safe to trade buffalo, buy cow leather for shoes or to do work that their community has done for centuries for fear of being attacked by Hindu vigilantes. In Agra, small-scale shoe manufacturers were firing workers following government crackdown on cattle slaughter.

4. According to Indiaspend (, a data journalism website, 94 incidents of cow related violence including mob lynching occurred between 2012 to 2018, in which 37 persons died, victims numbered 308 and the number of major assaults was as high as 164. The top two ethnic communities that the victims came from are Muslims and Dalits. Indiaspend does not have data on the caste location of Muslim victims but a quick look at the names of victims of mob lynching in Jharkhand, one of the states recording high number of mob lynching cases, reveal that majority of them are from pasmanda muslim communities. Ramgarh district: Alimuddin Ansari, meat trader (lynched 2017); Godda district: Sirabuddin Ansari and Murtaza Ansari accused of stealing 13 buffaloes (Lynched 2018); Latehar district: Mazloom Ansari and Imtiaz Khan cattle traders waylaid, beaten mercilessly and strung from a tree after they fell unconscious (2016); Bokaro  district: Shamsuddin Ansari, suspected of kidnapping children (2017).

In India caste is in class7. The Mandal commission for Backward Classes also found convergence between caste and class8. According to Indiaspend the victims of lynching are almost entirely from poor families9. Therefore, the ‘Ansari’ victims of mob lynching in Jharkhand are in all probability Pasmanda Muslims from the weaver community (poor and low caste). In a few instances the ‘Ansari’ surname is also used by upper caste Muslims.

Similarly, lynched victims Pehlu Khan, Junaid, Umar, Akbar from Rajasthan and Haryana are all Meo Muslims (called Meo in Haryana and Mev in Rajasthan). Meo/Mev Muslims are Pasmanda Muslims10. They are a traditional pastoral community that rears milch cows. “Can’t Muslims keep cows? Or, have they passed a law that we can’t keep cows. In Mewat, most keep cows, some even more than 100, says an angry wet-eyed patriarch to us on Day-2 of our Mewat area journey through Haryana in the #KarwaneMohabbat”, writes John Dayal, Journalist and Human Rights Activitist, on his Facebook wall.

5. IndiaSpend’s analysis of cow protection laws found that as of March 2017, cow slaughter was prohibited in 84% of India’s states and Union territories, which account for 99.38% of the country’s population. Hindutva groups were using cow protection laws to attack Dalits, Adivasis and members of the Other Backward Classes. In many parts of India, entire towns were being forced to become vegetarian zones only because they fell in the vicinity of an important temple. This trend displays scant respect for the food customs of the majority of the population – India’s Shudras, Dalits and Adivasi communities – on the part of state authorities11.

6. “When we carry dead animals, they inquire where they come from. When we carry hides or bones, we face the same questioning.” The ‘they’ are various Hindu vigilante groups. Vigilante harassment happens often enough to make them feel insecure. Moreover, Dalit skinners do not have rights to the land where they have been skinning dead animals for ages. On the contrary, in Gujarat, Rajkot Municipal Corporation pays a non-Dalit partnership 5,800 rupees daily to collect animal carcasses from the streets of the city, and dump them at Sokra, the skinning fields. The workers are not leather makers: They neither skin the carcasses nor extract their bones. It’s a sore point. Dalit skinners feel that their community has a customary right to the work. “We are the ones who have been doing this for ages,” he says, “but the government is supporting another caste with the contract.” Dalit skinners are informal workers, not illegal workers. The Government will not formalize them (give licenses to leather workers) apparently because their skinning procedure pollutes. In Kanpur, 98 tanneries closed down when a national environmental tribunal found that they were dumping pollutants into the Ganges. Earlier this year, an investigation by Indian journalism outfit, The Wire, found that here, too, the threat of Hindu cow protection mobs is having an impact (From featured article, ‘India’s Dalit cattle skinners share stories of abuse’12).

India suspended ban on trade of cattle for slaughter (July 10, 2017) but cow related violence/mob lynching continue un-abated with percentage Muslim victims highest in 2018 compared to previous years 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 (

7. Bahujans in the cattle Industry are rapidly giving up their traditional occupation. After the 2016 Una attack, when four dalit men were flogged for skinning dead cattle, Dalit leather tanners in Una and other parts of Gujarat gave up their caste-based occupation as a mark of protest against the discrimination they faced for skinning cattle carcasses. Many of them are now struggling to find new work. Ramesh Sarvaiya (Una attack survivor) is trying to make a living as a tailor while his cousin Jitu Sarvaiya (Una attack survivor) now works as an electrician at a ceramic factory in Morbi district13.

Clearly, Cow Vigilantes, PETA and NGT have a problem with traditional, un-organized or informal workers in the cattle sector but not with the big players. The big players also have a problem with the informal workers. For instance, some large leather manufacturers support the Uttar Pradesh state government’s move, arguing that allowing only licensed abattoirs to operate will clean the industry’s image. Bigger exporters also say they have enough leather as they source hides widely, including from abroad14.

According to OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2017-2026 report, India is the world’s third-biggest exporter of beef and is projected to hold on to that position over the next decade. Allanasons Private Limited, Al-Hamd Food Products Private Limited, Mirha Exports Private Limited and MK Overseas Private Limited are the top four beef exporter companies in the Country. 40% of beef shipments of India arrive into importing countries from JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust), which is owned by Government of India15. The Indian government has made the halal process mandatory for all beef consignments meant for export. India earns billions of dollars from halal beef exports. Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust and Jamiat Ulama Halal Foundation, which are upper caste Muslim organizations (see organizational chart of these organizations on their respective websites), are the only two recognized and globally-accepted certifiers in India for halal meat16. No wonder that recently, Maulana Arshad Madani, President of Jamiat Ulama Hind called for COW to be declared the national animal of India? A quick net search revealed that Halal certification in Australia is big business and worth millions to certifiers17. How much is earned through halal meat certification by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust and Jamiat Ulama Halal Foundation? This information could not be found in the public domain. With India being the second largest exporter of beef in the world, the income from halal certifications to Jamiat’s Halal meat certifying organizations should be phenomenal!

The dairy sector is also set to favor medium scale dairy farms over small and marginal farmers. According to the report, ‘Emerging Dairy Farm Trends in India’18, published by Rabobank, a major financier of agri- and dairy-related businesses, Medium-scale dairy farms with 50 to 300 cattle will be one of the key growth drivers in Indian dairy. Milk procurement will become the single most critical link in the dairy supply chain. Direct milk sourcing will gradually replace agent-based sourcing as a dominant model.

It is therefore, perhaps, not a coincidence that stringent implementation of cow protection laws, involving cow vigilantism/mob lynching and changes in Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rules in 201719 banning trading in cattle for slaughter and limiting the trade to farm owners, a move that hit poor landless farmers, and restricted supplies to India’s Rs. 1 lakh-crore meat industry, come at a time when ‘Make in India’, designed to succeed at the expense of the un-organized sector, is underway. The economic policies of the Government then explain a lot the violence against Bahujans (primarily meos/mevs, chamars, yadavs and kasais in dairy, beef and leather sectors) witnessed and ongoing in the Country in the name of the cow or on some other pretext.

 The following table taken from an EPW article titled, ‘Unorganised Sector Workforce in India: Trends, Patterns and Social Security Coverage’ (S. Sakthivel and Pinaki Joddar) provides information on the share of informal or unorganized sector among socially vulnerable groups. It shows that among Bahujans or schedule caste, schedule tribe and other backward caste workers, more than 90% of them are in the un-organized sector.

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A policy research working paper of World Bank in 2013 calls India’s unorganized sector ‘Persistent’20. It says, the transformation of India’s unorganized sector is important to its modernization, growth, and attainment of regional economic equality. Several key facts about India’s unorganized sector in manufacturing and services are- First, the unorganized sector is large, accounting for more than 99 percent of establishments and 80 percent of employment in manufacturing. Second, the unorganized sector is stubbornly persistent — it accounted for 81 percent of manufacturing employment in 1989 and 2005. Third, this persistence is not due to particular subsets of industries or states, as most industries and states show limited change in unorganized sector employment shares. Fourth, the degree to which localized unorganized activity exists is important as it is associated with weaker production functions for manufacturing firms. The study investigates conditions promoting transformation by state-industry and finds that larger organized sector plants are most important for transitions in the manufacturing sector, while small establishments play a key role in the services sector.


Why is it that even in 70 years of India’s democracy, Bahujan traditional occupational groups in meat, leather and dairy sectors could not evolve into even medium scale producers to become key participants under ‘Make in India’? It is imperative that the Government produces a white paper on the impact of ‘Make in India’, PETA, NGT and Cow Protection laws on socio-economic and cultural development of Bahujans. The Bahujan activists and politicians must demand this. The sooner they do it the better before Bahujans are completely ruined.

There is a need to understand the linkages of programs such as ‘Make in India’ and loss of livelihood and life of Bahujans. While the cow vigilantes are directly attacking the Bahujans on large scale through violence and disrupting their life, there are definite beneficiaries of this violence. The large scale organized abattoirs, dairy, etc, highly subsidized and supported by the Government are the direct beneficiaries.

The silence of Muslim politicians is glaringly loud, as coming mostly from upper caste backgrounds they have always neglected the plights of pasmanda Muslims. There are direct political and financial benefits that they reap due to the violence around. This situation needs to be understood as a Bahujan issue and not an issue of Muslims or Dalits only.

[Special thanks to Professor Shafiullah Anis, Glocal University, for reviewing the draft article and providing feedback and inputs]



1. Ghotge N, Gáspárdy A (2016) A Socio-Economic Pilot Study on Indian Peri-Urban Dairy Production†. Int J Agricultural Sci Food Technology 2(1): 028-034. DOI: 10.17352/2455-815X.000011

2. Source: FAS/USDA (Head)





7. Ramkrishna Mukherjee, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 34, No. 27 (Jul. 3-9, 1999), pp. 1759-1761








15. Source:




19. now undone after the damage has been done as violence against the bahujans in beef, dairy and leather work continue unabated.

20. “Ghani, Ejaz; Kerr, William R.; O’Connell, Stephen D.. 2013. The Exceptional Persistence of India’s Unorganized Sector. Policy Research Working Paper;No. 6454. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”



 Naaz Khair is a Development Professional working with marginalized communities and groups since 1993. The last 17 years had been about evaluating children’s education projects and undertaking a few studies related to Muslim education. Currently, she is raising development issues entirely from a Pasmanda-Bahujan perspective.

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