With Thousands of maldharis, the cattle herder communities of Bharwads and Rabaris of Gujarat, gathering near Shertha near Adlaj in north of Ahmedabad city, the government appears to be in difficult predicament. On one hand, the Gujarat High Court is taking a tough stance against the stray cattle menace, and on the other hand the very cohesive communities known to vote en-block as per social diktat up in arms at the moment when elections are due.
Aggressive and socially a strong block, the maldhari communities are intent on proving their strength. One of the leaders thundered at the rally “If the demand is not met, we have enough power to not anyone beyond Rajkot’
Named “Maldhari Vedana Sabha’ ( The agitation for expressing the pain of cattle herders”, the Mahasammelan ( mega assembly) has been organized where Religious heads ( Mahant) of more than 20 temples of Maldhari Samaj and Bhuwas ( sectarian chiefs) of more than 40 shrines, heads of more than 17 organizations and political and social leaders of Maldhari communities are participating in this assembly.
The spokesperson of the community, Nagjibhai Desai, said, the cattle control bill brought in by the Government of Gujarat in 2022 is an act to help the industrialists by giving them the wastelands meant for the cattle away. He alleged that the government has no empathy either for the cattle and cattle herders or for innocent citizens who are hi=urt or killed by the stray cattle.
The maldharis also raised the issue of cattle being caught by the administration and starved to death in captivity. The community is demaning pastoral lands for their cattle to graze. “The corporation has been expanding the city limits and incorporating the villages outside the city under its jurisdiction. Our “gauchar lands” (pastoral lands) have been taken away. We have no land left to let our cattle graze. So, our cattle roam on the road,” they said.
In the initial weeks of Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel coming to power, the government had come up with a bill to control stray cattle. The constituency that Bhupendra Patel comes from, Ghatlodia in Ahmedabad, has earlier seen skirmishes between cattle herder communities and citizens.
The bill however was shelved after the intervention of State BJP Chief C R Patil. At the same time, there has been a spate of fatal to near-fatal incidents all over Gujarat where stray cattle took lives of many citizens or injured them.
Gujarat high court taking cognizance of the menace directed the government to curb the menace in the sternest possible terms. However, the administration appears to be lagging behind in implementing the prevalent rules.
The mood of the citizens is also predominantly against the stray cattle menace. In a city, cattle of the size of a cow or a buffalo roaming a busy street can not be tolerated is a general view. The videos on social media about young girls, housewives, young children, and the elderly not able to withstand raging cattle attacking them are seen at an increasingly regular interval.