My name is Meera Darji. I am an independent filmmaker based in UK.
I stumbled across Nehaben early in 2018 where I saw a video of a car chase. As I looked closely a car was chasing a pickup truck late at night in the streets of India. As the trucks stopped, I soon noticed a woman opening the back of the truck exposing around eight cows who had been compressed into this small space. The cows were thin, scared and their faces, throats and legs were intertwined in rope, unable to move. Nehaben and her team slowly removed the cows and rescued them from their death. The police were called on the scene, they caught the driver and questioned his reckless behaviour. The animals were taken into her ambulance and they now reside in local shelters. Nehaben then had to be present in court to provide justice for the cows’ lives. She could not handle this violent behaviour and absurd treatment of animals that was happening right beneath her eyes and thus she set up her own NGO called Pranin Foundation in 2014.
This is when I thought, I need to tell her story, I need to give them a voice.
My documentary aims to uncover the story of the Gaurakshas also known as The Cow Protectors. In Gujarat, India, a movement is happening where the civilians of society are taking their own initiate and guts to revolt against animal violence, illegal slaughter and catching criminals along the way. The documentary piece will focus on the main subject, Nehaben who is the leader of the group in Gujarat with the inclusion of other cow protector volunteers.
I carried out research based on the laws of animal slaughter to specifically the Gujarat state and found that under The Bombay Animal Preservation Act 1954 (applied to Gujarat) the slaughter of cows, calves, bulls or bullocks are totally prohibited. Anyone violating the law could be punished with imprisonment up to maximum of 6 months or fine of up to ₹1,000 (£10) or both. The crime is treated as a cognizable offence (ANNEX II (8) Paragraph 17.4).
The Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill 2011 was passed unopposed in the Legislative Assembly, with support from the main opposition party, on 27 September 2011. The October 2011 amendment criminalized transporting the animal for the purpose of slaughter and included a provision to confiscate the vehicle used for carrying cow meat. It also increased the maximum jail term for slaughtering cattle to 7 years and maximum fine to ₹50,000 (£500).
In 2017, the Gujarat Assembly amended the bill further extending the punishment and fine. The punishment was increased to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 'life term of a 14 years'. The fine was increased to 1-5 lakh rupees (£1-5000). The new law also made offences under the amended Act non-bailable.
In response to these laws, the Gaurakshas voluntarily take action in the form of rescues to protect the animals by all means including risking their lives. Therefore, the story will cover the action rescues that they perform. The rescue unfollows by Nehaben and the volunteers keeping a vigil on the highways and roads that are known to transporting animals. Sometimes the locals call them to inform that they have seen a vehicle carrying animals, usually cows and bulls, in a particular place on a particular road. Nehaben and her team, often accompanied by the police, intercept and stop these vehicles. As this act of transporting animals is illegal in India, the drivers often try to drive off which then leads to a car chase. Once the team catch the vehicle, they immediately check the truck and find the animals tied in the back usually injured and starving. The animals are then unloaded and sent to animal shelters, in particular the Pashu Mandir in Karjan, near Vadodara. These rescue missions happen daily, they are spontaneous yet despite this, Nehaben is always prepared and brave to carry them out.
On a whole this documentary plans to cover the Gaurakshas entire journey in saving the animals with elements of conflict and emotion through a truthful eye.
What does Nehaben and her team do?
She and her volunteers keep a vigil on the highways and some roads known to carry animals, and this is how they find trucks carrying cows, buffaloes, etc. illegally. Sometimes people call them to inform that they have seen a vehicle carrying animals, usually cows and bulls, in a particular place on a particular road. Neha Patel and her team, often accompanied by the police, intercept and stop these vehicles. As this act of transporting animals is illegal in India, the drivers often try to drive off which then leads to a car chase. Once the team catch the vehicle, they immediately check the truck and find the poor animals tied in the back usually injured and starving. The animals are then unloaded and sent to animal shelters, in particular the Pashu Mandir in Karjan, near Vadodara. These rescue missions happen daily, they are spontaneous yet despite this, Nehaben is always prepared and brave to carry them out.
Where do the animals go?
About 3000 animals including birds, snakes, dogs, goats, camels, cows and bulls and more, have been rescued since June 2014. This number will increase as the number of volunteers and support base increases. India has several animal shelters or sanctuaries where the animals are treated medically and provided food as long as they live. One such well managed shelter is in Karjan, near Vadodara, called Pashu Mandir (see www.animalcareindia.org). It keeps about 2600 cows and bulls these days, and the number keeps increasing. A lot of compassionate people support the shelter in different ways.
She has been struggling financially to get vehicles in place to find these trucks and to then transport the animals to shelters. In the past, she has managed to build her very own ambulance, however with illegal slaughtering happening very often and, in many cities, she is now struggling with only one or two vehicles at hand. She has tried to get loans out, however the banks have rejected her request many times and thus her only option is now donations.
There are many different aspects to what the funds will go towards, below are a few:
· Funding to buy more vehicles for rescues (mainly pickup trucks/intercept trucks)
· Maintaining vehicles that they use for chasing illegal butchers
· Reparing their damaged vehicles
· Paying for Diesel for chases
· Health and welfare – this includes hospital treatment for the injured animals
· Purchasing Manual cow cranes for cows who can't stand up
· Insurance – for the vehicles and animals in care
· Sanctuary expenses (food, water, shelter, staff)
· Paying lawyers who can help in court cases
· Supporting volunteers with food and water and approproate clothing
· Buying vehicle equipment for evidence such as dashcams
· Hospital treatment for volunteers in accidents
“We need to build a community who can support us in speeding up the activities related to rescuing animals from butchers and giving them a safe life. This is a very small foundation with lots of big aims. Right now there is no government support. At present we are maintaining the activities on financial and other kinds of loans. If anyone can help a little, it will make a big difference.”
Below are some examples of rescue reports from the past:
BEEF CAUGHT NEAR SURAT
26.04.2018: Sureshbhai Purohit and Bharatbhai Bharwad got an information about a huge amount of Cow meat being produced in Kosadi village situated in Surat district by Faijal Suleman Surya and Mohammad Suleman Surya.
Based on this information Cow protectors/ volunteers from Navsari, Kim, Kamrej and Baroda gathered at 12 midnight and started fielding. Around 3:00am in the early morning the car (numbered: GJ 05 JQ 0595) that they got the information about appeared and all volunteers chased the car. During this risky chase, one of our volunteer’s Swift car and PickUp got heavily damaged. Though the accident was very injurious, the volunteers without loosing courage continued chasing for about 40kms.
At the end the car loaded with huge amount of cow meat was caught near to Sarthana Police station. We found that in Kosadi and Zankhvav, everyday a huge number of cows are being killed, cow meat is produced, and it looked like the police was not aware of this slaughtering. All cow protectors and volunteers request that the buyer of the cow meat, Salim Pawda should get hardest of hard punishments from Police.
A CALF SAVED FROM BEING SLAUGHTERED
03/08/18 - We had information long back a community Chunaras supplying calves to the butchers , we were unable to catch them not having enough time to reach on the spot, this time we caught them, 2 fled and the driver was caught. Calf leg was dragging out from an auto rickshaw. We called police , we took custody of a calf and sheltered at Karjan Panjrapol, one can see calf was crying.4 cows/bulls rescued from being taken to slaughter.
Surat : 22.06.2018, Siyalaj (Mangrol): Shaileshbhai Mer and Bharatbhai Bharwad got an alert of a Tata Super S with license plate GJ 16 W 5085 which would be carrying cows/bulls for slaughter from Mangrol taluka Siyalaj village in Mangrol to kosadi village. They called their team of cow protection activists and arranged a watch in Siyalaj village itself. On noticing that vehicle, the cow protection activists chased it and intercepted it within the Siyalaj village at 11 PM last night. Police was then informed. Police arrived and started investigating. The 2 cows and 2 bulls were taken to Antroli Panjrapol (cow shelter) within an hour, where they are safe. The vehicle will be impounded. It takes a lot of bravery to go inside the villages of butchers and stop their vehicles, but fortunately we have several such volunteers. Watch the video here: https://www.facebook.com/Pranin.Foundation/videos/209625212999853/
Information on Pranin Foundation
Pranin Foundation 46,
Duplex Opp. Manjalpur Township
India Tel. +91 99047 16996
E-mail: [email redacted]
Pranin Foundation’s PAN is AACTP6254H.
Its trust registration number is Gujarat/3397/Vadodara. It has been registered as a charitable trust by the Charity Commissioner Office, Vadodara.
You can also find Meera Darji at:
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- D Padma Gowda
- Cheryl Suriyaarachchi