WORLDPOST

Striking Images Of A Vigilante Group Protecting India's Cows

During the day, the vigilantes work as teachers, lawyers, marble sculptors and politicians.

12/11/2015 8:59 AM AEDT | Updated 12/11/2015 8:59 AM AEDT

By day, they are city dwellers going about their daily lives. By night, India's "cow vigilantes" band together, to catch people who smuggle and kill cows for profit.

Last weekend, Bangladesh-based Getty Images photographer Allison Joyce followed a local cow vigilante group in the Ramgarh district of Rajasthan, an Indian state along the Pakistani border, as they patrolled the streets for cow smugglers come nightfall.

Hindus worship cows as sacred beings, and many of the animals can be seen wandering around India's streets ungoverned. Many of the Ramgarh vigilantes are members of militant Hindu groups, the BBC reported. During the day, they are teachers, lawyers, marble sculptors and politicians, per Getty Images.

The vigilantes are helping enforce strict government policies on cow slaughter and beef consumption -- seven of the country's 29 states ban the killing of cows and most others have severe restrictions on cow slaughter. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, people can face up to 10 years in jail for the voluntary slaughter of cows, calves, oxen or bulls.

Since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power last year, there has been a clampdown on the beef trade, as well as increasing reports of mob violence over alleged cow smuggling. The New York Times reported last week that there have been at least four deadly attacks by Hindus on Muslims they accused of stealing, smuggling or killing cows in the previous six weeks. 

Take a look at Joyce's photos of the "cow vigilante group" in Ramgarh below.

  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Members of a cow vigilante group patrol the streets of Ramgarh district in India's Rajasthan state.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    A cow stands on a road in Ramgarh, India.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Group members check their phones for tips about cow smugglers in the area before going out on patrol.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Group members patrol on motorbikes in Ramgarh, India.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    The Ramgarh vigilante group leader Nawal Kishore Sharma checks the bed of a truck that the group chased down.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Group members look into the back of a truck they chased down in Ramgarh, and find a dozen cows. The driver fled and disappeared into a forest, Getty noted.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Group members try to free the cows from the back of a truck.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    A policeman hugs Nawal Kishore Sharma after his group chased down a cow smuggler.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Group members unload the smuggled cows to take to a rescue shelter.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Rescued cows are seen at a shelter in Ramgarh, India.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Cows that have been taken from smugglers are seen at a rescue shelter in Ramgarh, India.
  • Allison Joyce/Getty Images
    Group members relax at a cow rescue shelter in Ramgarh, India.