Amidst the din over beef, a group of Muslims in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh is silently working to protect cows and restore communal harmony. Haji Tayyab Qureshi, an advocate and builder by profession, is spreading awareness about the importance of saving cows and being tolerant towards others’ sentiments through his Gau Hatya Virodhi Muslim Sangharsh Samiti (GHVMSS). The organisation supports a ban on cow slaughter and aims to propagate the message.
“In September 2007, the heads of 11 cows were discovered at Gram Pasonda in Ghaziabad, which led to widespread tension in the area. Similarly, dead pigs were found outside local mosques. I could see how communal harmony was being compromised,” said Qureshi, who then decided to set up the Samiti.
“We understand the religious sentiments attached to gau mata. We do not have any disregard for it,” Qureshi said. He quoted Surah Ha-Mim, from the Quran, Ayat 34:35, to say, “…And good and evil will not be equal O listener, repel the evil with good, then he between whom and you there was enmity will become as though he was your warm friend. And this wealth is granted not but to those who are steadfast and it is granted not but to the owner of great fortune.”
According to him, some political and religious groups are using the issue of cow slaughter as a tool to spread communal disharmony, and are portraying stray incidents as major threats. He thinks that the Muslim community is paying the price for this. “Violence is not an answer. This does not need to become a communal issue, it has a larger commercial implication,” he said.
Qureshi says it is the police that must be held accountable for the illegal slaughters that take place. “The unclaimed cows are slaughtered and the authorities earn profits from that. The land on which the unlawful act is performed, the factories where the flesh is sold, the leather manufacturers who deal with the dead animal’s skin are not owned by people of any particular religion, but it is the butcher who gets the entire blame,” Qureshi said. “It’s unfair to blame a particular section of society for something from which everybody is extracting profits collectively.”
Qureshi is also the “national custodian” of Gau Raksha Prakosht Rashtriya Muslim Manch, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-led platform for Muslims who do not support cow slaughter.
The GHVMSS supports the need for a systematic birth and death registration system for cows and believes that it should be declared as the national animal. The GHVMSS, however, does not operate any gaushala. Qureshi says his organisation is working to advance understanding about the issue.
The GHVMSS has not been able to work on a large scale for the lack of resources. One of the organisation’s major successes was getting beef removed from the menu of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The GHVMSS was also a key contributor to the Muslim Gaupalak Sammelan held in September 2015, in Haryana, which was addressed by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
When asked if the beef-ban went against the spirit of democracy and secularism, Qureshi replied, “You must understand Haqooq-ul-Ibaad — our duties towards mankind. True religion is about maintaining peace and harmony among your fellow human beings.”