How to light a communal fire? Mr Dilip Das, the SP of Khorda, may have an answer

Jagpreet L By Jagpreet L, 23rd Mar 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>News>Crime

Kadab in Odisha's Khorda district, is on the brink of a full-fledged communal war--entirely on account of the crime of cattle-smuggling that the Khorda police stubbornly refuse to check. The build-up has been slow, steady and systematic.

Meet the Khorda SP

The Superintendent of Police of Khorda is not a face for me, just a voice, that too faint, literally and metaphorically.
I have not met Mr Dilip Das, but in the last two years, a group of us have called him up 350 times, which makes it an average of once in two days. In the beginning, he took one out of five calls; in four months, from mid-September 2015 to January, he answered only three of my 50 calls.
I call him so often because I am very fond of myself, precisely, my human status.
In keeping with this, I have taken it upon myself to rescue the gentle cows, the delicate calves, the hardy bullocks and the majestic bulls—right out of the clutches of the cattle-smuggling/slaughter mafia.
Khorda, the district in Odisha of which Das is the chief law-keeper-- along with Bhadrak in Odisha-- is the hub of the cattle-smugglers.
My practical identity: Honorary Animal Welfare Officer with the Animal Welfare Board of India and volunteer, Gau Gyan Foundation, an NGO, deeply into the rescue and rehabilitation of cattle.
To set the record straight, I started this long before there was even a hint of the saffron party coming to power AND before the idea of India was re-defined by a foreign news agency that equated the right to eating beef with the right to food and freedom of choice. How the idea was fuelled by some pseudo-humans is, by now, history. May be, one day, an alter ego of Romila Thapar would literally illuminate that side of India’s history in which hurting other life forms even through the breath is an avoidable human error.
Such is the evil grip of misinterpreted history that a Sanjiv Marik, despite being director general of police, likes to open his mouth big about his knowledge of ancient Indian history, in which he says there was no bar on beef-eating, while he keeps his ears firmly shut to the talk of the Orissa Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Unchecked Smuggling

Marik gave lilting support to the cattle mafia as chief of police in Odisha until last November—through sins of omission-- but it was I who heard the sweet music: Marik was forced to go on leave, then, given a punishment posting as head of Orissa State Road Transport Corporation and is now probably retired.
Marik’s less-than-dignified exit from the office of DGP had apparently nothing to do with his covert support to the cattle mafia, but I exhaled deeply:
To an El Capone victim, it does not matter whether the blue-blooded gangster was at last caught over a white collar crime like tax evasion, as long as he was caught.
Before I am accused of criticising the ex-DGP of Odisha unduly, let me say that I have said the same thing in a petition to the former chief justice of the Orissa High Court, Amitava Roy, and in a written complaint to the present Environment Minister. Copies of these were also officially routed to Marik through the AWBI a few months before his exit, and when a 21-year-old volunteer personally showed them to him last July, Marik laughed them off.
The same Marik had fumed when I asked him for police protection for cattle rescue work. He asked me to collect all the stray cattle of Odisha and take them to Delhi. This was in the September of 2014.
The crooked part of this remark was that he was trying to negate the seriousness of this highly organized crime, worth trillions of rupees, with the Odisha police playing a key role in it. Odisha is a converging point of cattle smuggled from four states-- Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkand and Chhattisgarh. Aided by the police, each day and night, pick-up vans, trucks and sealed containers speed along NH 5 and NH 6 to reach the slaughter houses of West Bengal and Bangladesh.
I also have pictures of other big vehicles stuffed with cattle: an emptied out luxury air-conditioned bus, a milk van, a train bogey and an Indian Oil container. So far, in my knowledge, the only means of transportation the smugglers have not used is the aircraft. Given the benevolence of some of our wealthy and internationally-connected artistes, thinkers and politicians, who knows, we might hear of a planeload of bulls being carted for a beef party!

Alarming Statistics

Pre-Eid, the smuggling through north Odisha goes up from an average of 4,000 per day to 5,000 plus/day. Almost an equal number goes to Andhra and Telangana from the south of the state.
I can say this on oath in court—and I did through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL No 4238) in the High Court of Orissa--but all hell breaks loose when I quote these statistics to the top cops.
From being accused of indulging in ridiculous exaggeration to being called a nit-wit, I have faced everything.
The only people who would not dare to deny it are the junior cops—from those of the Begunia police station in Khorda to Khantapada PS in Balasore-- because it is they who manage the networking of the illegal business.
My fellow volunteers in every district along the east coast of Odisha have a list of the names of cops, musclemen, smugglers and the middlemen who are part of the racket.
Quite a large number of these are Hindus. In fact, I personally know some who spew venom against the cow-killers in public and take money from the smugglers on the sly—for facilitating the truck movement.
The cop conduits also know what we rescuers do: healthy cows, calves, bulls and bullocks, a majority of them of the choicest Indian breeds, are in high demand in the beef markets abroad. They are smuggled from West Bengal into Bangladesh, from where they are exported to the middle-east and Europe.
The cattle-smugglers, posing as traders, buy them in thousands at the weekly cattle markets organised in every nook and corner of India, a majority of them, illegal.
As part of rescue work and evidence-gathering, I have visited scores of them in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

Political Patronage

I got two cattle markets shut down officially, one in Begunia (Khorda, Odisha) where the Biju Janata Dal government has the devil-may-care attitude towards the cow protection laws and the other in Karhi Bhadar (Balod, Chhattisgarh) where the Bhartiya Janata Party government has the holier-than-thou approach.
The shutting down of a cattle market does not, however, mean an end to the crime of smuggling/slaughter. As long as the police and the administration are with the mafia, the illegal business goes on uninterrupted. In both Begunia and Karhi Bhadar, the illegal business is still thriving.
When I first landed in Begunia in the October of 2013, there were just three or four major hubs of the cattle mafia. Today, there are more than I can count. Each one of these is known to the SP, the Begunia police station cops and to the volunteers.
I have sent a couple of faxes and many SMSs to Das, requesting him to raid these illegal dumping yards in order to nip the crime in the bud. Better still, he can prevent the collection of cattle at these places.
He dismisses my messages with silent contempt. He does not believe me and my fellow volunteers about the statistics of smuggling: the Khorda-based smugglers contribute at least 40 percent to the 1.25 lakh cattle trafficked from Odisha to West Bengal every month.
Sometimes, we are lucky to get the truck numbers in advance. I sent Das a list of 65 truck numbers on September 13, 2015. He, as a rule, asks me and other callers from Delhi for the “exact location” of the illegal holding areas. The local volunteers are ever-ready to escort the police to these places, but Das snubs them bitterly. The junior cops keep slapping false cases against them.

Justice Delayed

Given the police support to the mafia, the volunteers also don’t get entangled in FIRs and court cases. My own experience with the courts has been punishing.
The 358 cattle I rescued in Kusupullah under Begunia PS in 2013, were given in the custody of village sarpanch Bulla Swain in violation of the law, and from the sarpanch to the mafia that took them for slaughter within no time. In the court, the police showed the cattle as “Stolen”. I dragged my heels in the Khorda district court for 45 days over this. Not having got justice, I went to the High Court of Orissa, where the case is still pending—after two long years.
But the rescue work has given me an insight into ground politics, how the police fail us rescuers and how they aid the criminals. I have also encountered dramatically diverse views on the cow-smuggling/slaughter issue:
It is the most lucrative business for Hindu traders and Muslim smugglers, just another animal for the beef-eaters, who neither know nor care to know whether it is against the law, an object of vengeance for some fundamentalist Muslims who cannot expend their bile against the Hindus through other means and a perfect front for the Hindu fundamentalists to let out their steam against Muslims.

Divine Bovines

For the vast and silent majority of Seculars, Hindus and Jains, however, the cow and the bull are pieces of divinity they love from the core of their hearts. This silent majority of people, across the boundaries of region, gender and age, suffer deeply when the cow and family are hurt. Their tears and smiles are linked to those of the cows, bulls, calves and bullocks they hold dear. They are also enraged at the open police support to the smugglers and killers of cattle.
The police, especially at the top, are either in denial of the crimes against cattle or afraid to touch this “communally sensitive” issue. By now, I know what this term means: there is a large number of Muslim in this illegal trade, some of them are dreadful dons, if there is a police raid on their dens, they would hit back, the Hindus in the neighbouring places, forever charged about the cow issue, would be provoked and the police would have a communal riot on their hands.
In the face of such arguments, I simply cannot push the envelope about animal welfare law-keeping. Giving this reasoning, the police have kept themselves—and me--off at least a hundred places all over the country, from the Kasai Gali in Belgaum and a slaughter house on the highway in Bailhongal (both in Karnataka) to Sakshigopal, Balipatna, Balasore, Bhadrak and Khorda in Odisha.
I always sensed the trouble this flawed reasoning would spell in the long run.
That long run has arrived in at least one place—Kadab village, just 8 kilometers from Kusupullah/Begunia.

Studied Silence

Repeated pleas to the Khorda SP to nip the crime of cattle-smuggling in the bud have gone unheard. Today, Kadab is a communal tinderbox.
On December 27, 2015, the police were informed hours before the smuggling of cattle happened at midnight. The Khorda SP did not do anything. The Begunia police did not reach the spot. Two trucks, cruelly stuffed with 121 cattle, which itself is enough to enrage any rescuer, were caught by the villagers. Many cows died of sheer suffocation. By the time the trucks were driven to the Begunia police station and a complaint was booked, it was the afternoon of the next day (FIR No.194/15, Begunia PS).
The cattle were given back to a hoax animal welfare activist. We have filed a case (G.R. Case No 1416/15) in the Khorda District Court about the bungling done by the Begunia police.
My coordination from Delhi ended with this case. I know about the rest of the story of communal tension build-up from the volunteers and a study of the FIRs, which, for a change, were booked thick and fast by the Begunia PS.
The story goes like this:
The cattle mafia, that suffered a loss of at least 60 lakh rupees because of the seizure of cattle and trucks on December 28, hit back and brutally beat up a few volunteers after laying a trap through their Hindu ‘friends’. This happened on January 12 post-midnight. The boys, whose phones had been snatched, hid in thick bushes all night, reached the Begunia police station the next morning, were shocked to see that a complaint had already been filed against them by the smugglers.
The mafia’s false complaint, FIR No. 3/16, on January 13 was filed at 2 A.M. and that of the genuine victims, FIR No. 04/16, in the late evening of January 13.
This brutal assault and the police foul play forced the Hindu volunteers to lie low and stay off rescue work, but on February 9, 2016, they got a chance to square up. After rescuing five cattle being smuggled in a pick-up van, they thrashed the smugglers. Since the police have a record of giving the cattle back to the mafia, the rescuers did not bother to file a complaint.
Later, the smugglers kidnapped two Hindu boys and locked them up in a masjid. Only the intervention of an elderly Muslim, the Hindus say, saved the boys.


On the morning of February 10, about 300 Hindu men went to the house of the Muslim smuggler, armed with sticks and rods, but did not find him there. The other side, they claim, set fire to a barn and accused the Hindus of having lit it. This invited several serious cases against 80 Hindu men. Before this incident, the police refused to book a complaint against an accomplice of the smugglers who, the Hindus claimed, stamped on a Shivling in a temple and posted his picture on the social media. I too have this picture.
For ten long days, this issue kept the two sides in Kadab village locked in negotiations on how to end the smuggling of cattle and how to live in peace with each other.
On February 20, a notorious middleman, named Battapani, visited the village to persuade the Hindus to call a truce. His idea of it is to make the Hindus look away from the crime of cattle-smuggling. Earlier, Battapani, himself a Hindu, had delivered death threats to cow-rescuers over the phone on behalf of the Muslim smugglers. I heard him --for 58 long minutes on a conference call in the last week of February—sweet talk to a volunteer about the need to “compromise” with the smugglers.
The volunteer, like the rest of the Hindus, would brook none of this talk. As of now, there is an impasse.
The Muslims against whom cases have been booked, even if they are arrested, have no worry because the Khorda police and the money bags of the smugglers are with them. The Hindus know that if the 80 odd people, against whom false cases have been booked, go to jail, not only will they rot there but the volunteers who do lawful cattle protection in Khorda would also be muzzled.
On the morning of February 21, I was told, the mango and cashew groves of a couple of Hindus were burned down as revenge for the loss of livelihood that the freeze on cattle-smuggling means for some Muslims. As of now, there is an eyeball-to-eyeball situation between the two sides. Armed police were posted in the village and the district collector organized a peace meeting, which was too little, too late.
There is simmering tension in Kadab, and it is spreading. In the rest of Khorda, cattle-smuggling is in full swing.
On Wednesday, March 2, 2016, some people in Lodhachua village, 12 kilometers from Kadab, caught a bolero stuffed with five cows, untied the cows, let them loose, beat up the smugglers and did not bother to inform the police. When I made contact with one of them and told him not to take the law into their hands, he shot back: “Are you out of your mind to be asking us to seek police help?” I had no answer.


Kadab is on the brink of a full-fledged communal war--entirely on account of the crime of cattle-smuggling that the Khorda police stubbornly refuse to check. The build-up has been slow, steady and systematic. What I find shocking is this: in the times of a Dadri lynching and an Agra rally (Muslims warned of ‘final battle’ at the Sangha meet/Indian Express story/ Feb 29, 2016), can the police anywhere in the country afford to ignore the crime of cow smuggling and slaughter, much less aid it through sins of commission and omission as the Khorda police are doing? This is a question that the SP of Khorda must be made to answer.

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