Even as cow vigilante groups in the northern States are targeting people on the mere suspicion of eating beef or smuggling cattle, an adarsh gaushala (model cow shelter) established by a Muslim institution in Jodhpur is taking care of old and sick cows. It is also assisting dairy farmers in a dozen surrounding villages in looking after their animals, and earning goodwill for promoting communal amity.
Launched in 2004 by Jodhpur-based Marwar Muslim Educational and Welfare Society (MMEWS), the initiative has won mass appreciation, with hundreds of people handing over cows and bulls to the shelter.
Old, weak, sick, abandoned, and neglected cows are given priority at the sprawling gaushala located in Bujhawad village off the Jodhpur-Barmer highway, 12km from Jodhpur. The shelter claims to be the first gaushala to be wholly owned and managed by the Muslim community.
Situated on a large piece of land without any boundary wall, the shelter is currently home to 217 bovines tagged by the State government's Animal Husbandry Department.
The shelter's full-time caretaker Hakim Khan and his wife Allahrakhi are in charge of the bovines’ welfare. Dogs and wild animals intruding into the shelter is a major concern, but Mr. Khan says the job is worth it. “We are glad to receive appreciation from the majority community, which sees the gaushala as an enterprise promoting communal harmony,” he said.
A trained team brings the cows, mostly from nearby villages, to the gaushala in a specially-designed vehicle. The MMEWS currently spends a little over ₹1 lakh a month on the animals. It is planning to double the shelter’s capacity by taking over a part of the 56 acres of land allotted for the construction of the Maulana Azad University, the society's general secretary, Mohammed Atique, told The Hindu.
“When we started the gaushala, some fringe elements objected to Muslims operating the shelter,” Mr. Atique said. “But over the years, the shelter has won people’s admiration and generated immense goodwill as villagers appreciate the selfless work.”
Most of the bovines in the shelter have come from villages such as Doli, Gangana, Bhandu, Narnadi, Khudala, Jhanwar and Rohila Kalan. The shelter also employs a team of veterinarians who not only attend to the animals but also visit the nearby villages to assist dairy farmers in taking care of their cattle. Filling gaps in the government’s veterinary infrastructure, the team runs vaccination and treatment camps for stray cows in the villages. “A mobile van visits these villages to treat cows, goats and buffaloes free of cost,” Mr. Atique said.