August 12, 2018: A few kilometres from Vaibhav Raut’s residence is Waza Mahula, a Muslim-dominated ghetto. Mohammed Abbas Fowzy, a local Congress leader speaking to the Indian Express has alleged:
“There is a well-oiled police and vigilante nexus. All the raids happen on the highway or the arterial roads. Traders are stopped at the entry point; those who pay are let off, cases are filed against those who don’t. Cow protection is a sham, this is actually an extortion racket.”
He has accused Vaibhav Raut and other members of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti to be indulging in extortion under the guise of cow protection.
If the transporters paid them (the gau rakshaks) they were let off or else the police were called and the vehicles and cattle were confiscated. The going rate was Rs 2000 to Rs 5000 per vehicle depending on the number of cattle present.
For 2-3 cattle, a minimum of Rs 2000 had to be paid as “fees” to the gau rakshaks and for vehicles carrying more than 4 cattle, Rs 5000 was charged. If the driver or transporter refused to pay up, the gau rakshaks called the cops who would arrest them, a trader told IndiaScoops.com.
Some local cops were hand-in-glove with the gau rakshaks and would get a cut from the “fees” charged by them.
There were several complaints from local meat traders and transporters against Vaibhav Raut and the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti for extortion in the name of cow protection.
The Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti is a local self-appointed cow vigilante group of around a hundred men between ages 15 and 55.
Among its members are both educated and uneducated, and employed and unemployed individuals, and some who do odd jobs, reports the Indian Express.
Many of them have made cow protection a business or a career and earn their livelihood from extorting money from meat transporters and traders.
According to locals in Nalla Sopara, even transporters of poultry and mutton are not spared and the gau rakshaks charge them ‘fees’ for bringing vehicles into their territory.
“We don’t have an office, we organise our meetings at chowks or panchayat halls, and since all of us rally for the same cause, we find time despite our other commitments,” Patil told Indian Express, and said he works for a private firm.
After the current government passed the beef ban law, the outfit has managed to conduct 30 “live raids”, and get five cases of ferrying meat alleged to be beef, registered.
Police are still investigating these cases, and have filed no chargesheets yet.
“Raut led all the raids and that was the reason behind the police issuing prohibitory orders against him,” Patil said. This, police sources said, happened in 2015, just before Bakrid, after Palghar police marked Raut out as a “troublemaker”.
In 2016, Raut registered 20 complaints against members of the Qureshi community. The prohibitory order issued under Section 144 of the CrPC in 2015 continued even in 2016 and 2017, police sources said.
The outfit is a part of the larger Hindu brigade that operates from Nala Sopara.
“We don’t have a parent organisation but we work closely with the VHP, HJS, Sanatan Sanstha, Bajrang Dal, and both the Shiv Sena and BJP,” claimed Patil. The outfit was floated by local youth in early 2014, and Raut was a founding member. The work of outfit members is “seva”, Diptesh Patil a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti told Indian Express:
“Nobody seeks any remuneration for this. We are doing this for the larger cause of Rashtra seva.”