Animal activist Abhinav Srihan is trying to save the abandoned, starved and locked up cows of Mahoba district in Bundelkhand.
“Drought has been intensifying in theBundelkhand region. Summers are equally unbearable for humans as well as animals with the temperatures rising up to 50°C. It becomes difficult for the farmers to survive, since there’s no produce in the fields most of the time. The cattle, especially the cows, in such times become burdens that the farmers cannot shake off. As a result, the cows end up in an abandoned, locked and starved state,” says animal activist Abhinav Srihan, talking about the dire state of cows in the Mahoba district of Bundelkhand.
Abhinav, who runs the NGO Fauna Police in Delhi, has taken it upon himself to save the abandoned cows of Mahoba.
He talks about the old tradition called Anna Pratha that’s prevalent in the area. Traditionally, the villagers wouldn’t look after the cattle all year long. It was only when the cow had had calves and was milking that the villagers would keep it inside the house. At other times, the cows would roam around and feed on the grass in the meadows. During the time of harvest, villagers would put the cows in an enclosure to prevent them from entering the fields and would provide them with dry grass and fodder instead.
“However, with the drought, villagers no longer have fodder or water for the cattle. They are busy trying to find food for themselves. The sad truth is that the buffalos and bulls end up in slaughter houses, but the cows, on the other hand, remain behind and are left to starve to death,” says Abhinav.
Abhinav, a filmmaker who is now an animal rescue activist, visited Mahoba to make a documentary on the bull races in January. While he was there, he received a helpline call from a local person who told him about cases of extreme cruelty to cows in places like Chikkara, Khanna and over 200 other villages in the area. Abhinav and his team of volunteers visited the areas and found that cows were being incarcerated in almost every village. Unsettled by witnessing the fate of the poor animals, he started documenting the grim situation through his Facebook page and raised his voice against the practice.
“Last year 3,00,000 cattle died in Bundelkhand (as per official estimates). This year, 500 have already fallen and the summer has only begun. I have been going from enclosure to enclosure in the worst-hit Mahoba district, reporting live on my Facebook Page,” says Abhinav.
Abhinav, along with a group of volunteers as well as hired daily wagers, has been providing fodder and water in some of the enclosures. The team has been nursing the cows back to health with food and care and then releasing them. They have also brought the issue to the notice of the local administration and have been urging them to set the animals free so they can at least fend for themselves.
“A tiny victory came when we were recently able to free the cattle in Chichara village in Mahoba. But thousands still remain locked up, waiting silently for help,” says Abhinav.
Abhinav says that the team of volunteers of Fauna Police has been reviewing the situation in over 200 villages in Mahoba. The NGO has taken to crowdfunding to provide fodder and water to the animals.
When asked about possible solutions to the problem, Abhinav says, “The animals could be helped tremendously if there are camps established for them near existing water sources. That way, some fodder and water would be ensured for them. However, we have to understand that it has to be done by NGOs or the government, since farmers cannot afford this,” he concludes.