“People say, ‘eh sirf kaat maar sakde ne’ (people say Muslims can only kill animals). We also have heart, we can also love animals,” says Salma, 33, a Muslim woman who runs a Gaushala in Payal, a small town in Ludhiana district of Punjab. It began in August 2007, when she found an injured bull and brought it home. She named it Nandi. She rescued injured cows and buffaloes and later, named her cow shelter- Muslim Gaushala.
In an article published by the Indian Express (IE), Salma told IE, the ‘Muslim Gaushala’ is maintained her father Nek Mohammad, aunt Tejo and herself by spending Rs 45,000 per month they receive as cumulative pension. At 33, Salma is single and she has decided to marry a man who would look after the gaushala with her. Till now she has faced six rejections and only one question is asked- Why does a Muslim woman need to run a gaushala?
Salma vehemently denies this type of thinking and said that her noble cause has nothing to do with her religion and everything she and her family does is for the love of animals. “I don’t see cow as my goddess, but rather as an animal who is in a desperate need of help. I am only following teachings of Allah and what is written in Quran. My religion teaches me to help every ‘jeev’(living being) who is created by Allah.”
Salma’s family is a victim of social boycott by the Muslim families residing in the same village. But, this doesn’t shock her anymore, where Muslim families suggest her to shut down the shelter, Hindu families complain about continuous smell and mess the created by shelter. “Caring for cows does not make me a lesser Muslim,” Salma said. Incidentally she is also a a vegetarian.
Salma is least bothered about the stench emanating from cattle dung and considers it a part of her household. “I realised, people don’t care about if the cows die or get beaten up. So, I have stopped naming the cows after Hindu gods and goddesses, like earlier I used to do. Now, after 2012, I use Christian names for them like Ejaza, Ashu, Jaan, Gulbadan, Honey and Badshah,” Salma told IE.
Last year, when five of Salma’s cattle died, she decided to bury them and not give them over for skinning, which led to an issue with the locals. A police complaint was filed against her for burying the cattle carcasses. Upon asking about the time by IE, at when cow vigilantes were brutally reacting over cow-slaughters and beef eaters, Salma denied to give any effort for politicising the profession.