In India, crimes against women are reported every two minutes and very often victims of these crimes have to wait for years and sometimes even decades to see the guilty being punished or put on trial. On the other hand however, when a cow is slaughtered self acclaimed religious activists take matters in their own hands to ‘punish’ those involved in the killing. To highlight this existing absurd ironic practice that exists in the Indian society, photographer Sujatro Ghosh came up with a unique photography project to depict the current situation.
To raise awareness about the issue, Ghosh began taking a series of photographs of women wearing cow masks in various public places. The idea of this was to bring out the fact that in our country, places where women feel vulnerable and unsafe, cows are revered and protected. People attacking and harassing women might still get away with it or at least not be punished immediately but people slaughtering the holy cows are immediately put to rest. This initiates a conversation beyond just the morals and religious values involved with cow slaughtering and brings to the forefront the fact that the protection of extremist religious values are given far more importance than the protection of women’s rights and their lives. Through this series, he aims to highlight the recent growth of this dangerous mix of religion and politics that is causing the deaths of so many people in the name of mindless extremism. The project simultaneously highlights two very relevant issues of women’s safety and the rise of religious extremism from certain Hindu groups when it comes to protection of cows or consumption of beef. In the last two years, there have been various incidents that reported a number of cow protection groups lynching people who were rumoured to have eaten or store beef. The most recent incident that was reported described how a man in Jharkhand was beaten to death for carrying ‘banned meat’ and his vehicle being set on fire. These incidents have sparked an outrage amongst the public who now demand proactive measures from the authorities to stop the lynching of innocent Muslims by these cow vigilantes. The #NotInMyName movement that began after the killing of an innocent 17 year old Muslim boy aims at uniting the masses to fight against these extremist groups and demand justice for the victims.
In a time where people not only profess radicalized and extreme opinions but also act upon the same, it is important for the masses to stand against it and make their voices and opinions in opposition to extremism, heard. Sujatro Ghosh’s peaceful yet hard hitting form of protest against the sorry state of affairs in our country. The project was well received by social media users who not only appreciated the idea but also stepped up and showed interest in contributing and being a part of the same. While most of the people supported Ghosh and his project, he also faced backlash from Hindu extremists who threatened to attack him, but in response to these bullies Ghosh declared that “The cow will travel”, announcing his intentions to keep the project going. As an organization that works towards the safety of women and girls in the country, we commend the idea behind this project and urge everybody to raise their voice against injustice, not by confrontation but through art and expression.