Phule Khan and his family from Ledi village under Ladnu tehsil in Nagaur. (HT Photo)

With the country witnessing a fierce debate over perceived intolerance, a Muslim family in Rajasthan is doing its bit to maintain communal harmony, dedicating its life to the service of cows.

Phule Khan and his family, who hail from Ledi village in Ladnu tehsil, shelter around 600 cows. The practice, which started with 20 cows in 1995 by Phule’s brother Aasu Khan, has two aims — providing shelter and fodder to abandoned cows and saving crops from being destroyed by stray cattle during harvesting seasons.

“We are working towards building a spirit of brotherhood among Hindus and Muslims. No nation can survive if there is a trust deficit between two communities. Hindus revere the cow and there is no harm if Muslims respect their sentiments,” Phule said.

Quoting verses from the Quran, Khan said it is a hadith (tradition and sayings of Prophet Muhammad) which records the Prophet as saying that consumption of beef is bad for health. “When such a hadith exists, there is no room for further debate,” the farmer added.

The family has welcomed the Rajasthan Cow Protection Act, which bans cow slaughter in the state. “The bulls are sold only to local farmers at heavily discounted prices with a written undertaking that the cattle would not be sold to butchers and would be returned once they grow old,” Phule’s brother Habib Khan said.

According to reports, the Khan family runs the shelter with their own resources and with the help of donations from fellow villagers. “Every month, about Rs 1 lakh is spent on fodder and the upkeep of the shelter,” said Phule.

The shelter has also provided the village with other benefits — for example, the manure produced from cow dung has helped the farmers reduce their dependence on chemical fertilisers. “The manure has not only curtailed the input cost of agriculture in the area but has also enhanced the fertility of the soil in our fields,” Kishan Singh, the former sarpanch of the village said.