As he made his way from Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh to Salahpur near Meerut, Jitender, a thirty something farmer, felt his courage slowly crumble. He had brought Rs 70,000 to buy a buffalo at Salahpur’s weekly farm-animal fair. But by the time he got there, he lost his nerve. “I might be attacked by gau rakshaks,” says Jitender, anxious about riding home with a buffalo, should he buy one. “The rakshaks won’t care if my buffalo is for milking. They will accuse me of wanting to slaughter her,” he says.
The fair at Salahpur has got, every Tuesday for twenty years, up to a thousand buffaloes. It caters to buyers from western UP, Rajasthan and Haryana. But this week, business fizzled out before it could even begin. By noontime, about 200 buffaloes and a dozen cows arrived.