Just four days before Delhi votes in the Lok Sabha election on May 12, communal tensions are simmering in Kotla village in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri locality. Early on May 8, two cows were found dead at Sanjay Lake near the village.
A first information report has since been filed at the Pandav Nagar police station against unknown persons under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act, 1994, and Section 429 of the Indian Penal Code which deals with “mischief by maiming or killing cattle”.
“We are investigating the matter,” said Jasmeet Singh, deputy commissioner of police, East Delhi.
The police have deployed “around 70 personnel” to patrol the area, he added. “There were rumours being spread about the dead cows,” Jasmeet Singh explained. “There were some injuries on its bodies. The area is a bit sensitive and we will keep contact with our peace committees.”
The cows were owned by dairy farmer Rai Singh, 56, a resident of Kotla. He had tethered the cows in a shed next to his home at around 11 pm on May 7. “By the time I woke up at around 3.50 the next morning, they were gone,” he said. “One of my neighbours told me the cows were at Sanjay Lake. I went there and I found them cut into pieces. One of them was pregnant.”
Rai Singh said he called the police at 5:30 am and they took away the carcasses. “They have gone for postmortem now,” he added.
Trilokpuri is not new to communal tensions. On Diwali in October 2014, a quarrel near a makeshift temple turned into a communal riot that left more than 50 people injured, forcing the authorities to impose curfew for over a week. In October 2016, a squabble over a betting game led to Hindu and Muslim groups hurling stones at each other.
But long before these incidents, Trilokpuri had witnessed a far greater tragedy: around 300 Sikhs were massacred in the locality during the 1984 riots.
Rai Singh was accompanied to the police station by members of the Sanatan Hindu Yuva Vahini, a Hindutva group.
“This is an open challenge to the village,” declared Pushpendra Mishra, leader of the Delhi chapter of the Sanatan Hindu Yuva Vahini, which he claimed is linked to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath’s Hindu Yuva Vahini. “Today it’s a cow, tomorrow it could be our child. If the police do not make arrests within 24 hours then we will organise a meeting with the whole village and protest.”
Mishra said he would use social media to “put pressure” on the police. “We have already put out a message on our WhatsApp groups informing people about this incident,” said Mishra, speaking at Rai Singh’s home. “This is an infringement upon our faith. We do not know who has done this but whoever has will be punished.”
Praveen Choudhary, another member of the Hindutva group who lives in Kotla, said it was common in the village for cows to roam around at night. “We generally leave them that way,” he added. “But now that Ramzan has started, it is more crowded at night.”
Kotla’s narrow lanes are packed with grocery shops, tailoring stores and food stalls. The poorly constructed houses are surrounded by open drains and piles of garbage. Several villagers Scroll.in spoke with appeared reluctant to talk about the incident.
Om Prakash, a villager, said the police came in the morning and sealed off the road running parallel to Sanjay Lake. “This is all I have heard,” he said. “The road is now open.”
Another resident named Mallo Gupta, 33, said she heard about the incident from her children. “This has never happened before,” she said. “We do not know much about the situation.”
Sant Ram, a fruit vendor, claimed it was the first such incident in Kotla in 18 years. “Elections are here so now we know why this is happening,” he said. “But no matter how useless a Hindu is, he will never do such a thing to a cow.”