Indian women wear cow masks to ask: are sacred cattle safer than us?

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Indian women wear cow masks to ask: are sacred cattle safer than us?” was written by Michael Safi in Delhi, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 4th July 2017 01.20 UTC

Indian women are posing in cow masks as part of a provocative photographic series that asks: is it safer to be a sacred animal in India than a woman?

The gang-rape and murder of a Delhi student in 2012 sparked a national conversation about violence against women but, more than four years later, police statistics show reported rapes and molestations have not significantly fallen in the capital. At least six rapes and 12 molestations were reported daily in 2016.

The conviction rate for sexual offences has declined, from about 50% in the year of the infamous Delhi attack, to less than one-third last year.

A woman in a cow mask at a butcher's shop
Holy cow: the animal is revered by many in India. Photograph: Sujatro Ghosh

Women’s groups attribute the stubbornly high rates to deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes, poorly trained or insensitive police and inadequate street lighting and CCTV cameras in parts of the city.

Over the same period, there has been a surge in violence against religious minorities and low-caste Hindus in the name of protecting cows, an animal revered by many.

The two trends are juxtaposed in Kolkata artist Sujatro Ghosh’s latest project, which features women wearing cow masks posing outside landmarks, on trains, or lounging about in their homes.

A woman in a cow mask sits on a boat
Ghosh says he has been inundated with offers by women to pose for the project. Photograph: Sujatro Ghosh

“The core issue is women’s rights and protection,” he said. “I’m not against protecting cows, I love animals. But I’m concerned about my country’s sociopolitical scenario.”

Ghosh said the project highlights the contrast in attitudes towards women and cows, while showing solidarity with the victims of both male and mob violence.

“Actually fighting with these politicians or extremist groups physically was never an option … so my primary intention is to create awareness among people,” he said.

A woman in a cow mask plays the piano.
There has been a surge in violence against religious minorities in the name of protecting cows. Photograph: Sujatro Ghosh

Ghosh has been inundated with offers by women to pose for the project, which has grown in popularity over the last fortnight after several high-profile mob killings of Muslims.

An analysis last week by the IndiaSpend data journalism website found that 97% of cow-related violence in the past eight years took place after 2014, when India elected a Hindu nationalist government led by prime minister Narendra Modi.

Modi campaigned on a platform of banning cow slaughter and, though he has condemned the mob killings, lower-rung members of his Bharatiya Janata party have regularly excused or justified violence in the name of defending cows.

Punishments for cow smuggling or slaughter have also been toughened since Modi took power.

A woman dressed as a cow at a diner.
A woman dressed as a cow at a diner. Photograph: Sujatro Ghosh

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Indian women wear cow masks to ask: are sacred cattle safer than us? | NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).