Jains in Old Delhi dressed up as Muslims to buy 124 goats. ‘Saved them from Bakrid sacrifice’

Delhi’s Jain community raised Rs 15 lakh and then went to Old Delhi markets posing as Muslims. They bargained hard, bought 124 goats, and have kept them at the now-famous temple in Chandni Chowk.

By: The Print

New Delhi: About 500 metres away from Jama Masjid, hundreds of goats surrounded Vivek Jain in the courtyard of a temple in Chandni Chowk. The 30-year-old chartered accountant had raised Rs 15 lakh to “save” 124 goats from being slaughtered during Eid al-Adha (Bakrid). And now he was blaring mantras from a speaker to calm them.

“This is a powerful Jain mantra to bring peace and positivity. These goats are afraid because they think they have been gathered for slaughter. They don’t know we have given them a new lease of life,” he said, flinching at the nudge of a bleating goat.

The Naya Jain Mandir in Dharampur area was buzzing with the same energy as the bustling goat markets ahead of Eid. However, the excitement here was about “saving” the goats from the butcher’s blade. For Jains living in Chandni Chowk, it was a goat darshan day for them. People were flocking to the temple to catch a glimpse of the bleating goats. Some donated money for their fodder, others proudly petted them, and some boasted about the virtues of their religion.

Amid the staple debate on vegetarianism and cruelty that erupts every year during Muslim festivities, the Jain community in Delhi was basking in its newfound attention and praises. They had become the talk of the Old Delhi area and an online sensation, with the hashtag “Jain” trending on X (formerly Twitter) with over 21,000 posts. Everyone — Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs — has been made aware of this otherwise not-so-prominent Jain temple, tucked away in the bylanes of Old Delhi, which had spent lakhs to “rescue” these goats.

People flocking for a goat darshan | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

“We are really proud of ourselves. The contribution by our community members from across the country has made it possible. We call it social welfare, and this is what our religion teaches us. This is a ‘historic moment’ for the Jain community of Chandni Chowk. This was our first time, and we will only go forward from here,” said Jain, as he ushered people to the courtyard for goat darshan.

Posing to impose

It started with a phone call from their guru Sanjeev, recalls 28-year-old Chirag Jain. Sanjeev was upset about the slaughtering of goats on Eid.

“He wanted to do something about it, and that’s when it was decided that while we can’t save all the goats, we should rescue as many as we can,” said Chirag.

We call it social welfare, and this is what our religion teaches us. This is a ‘historic moment’ for the Jain community of Chandni Chowk

— Vivek Jain, 30, chartered accountant who raised Rs 15 lakh

Soon, a plan was laid out. A team of 25 people, all from the Jain community, was formed on the evening of 15 June. A WhatsApp message seeking monetary contribution was circulated. Next, the team surveyed the areas where goats were being sold.

“We posed as their [Muslim] community members and asked for the price at which goats were sold. We also surveyed the goat mandis (markets),” said Chirag, as others in the living room nodded in agreement.

On 16 June, the team went undercover, spreading out in pairs to different goat markets in Old Delhi areas like Jama Masjid, Meena Bazar, Matiya Mahal, and Chitli Qabar. All members were instructed to wear kurtas and speak in a way that would allow them to blend in, to avoid any difficulties when purchasing the goats.

After multiple rounds of bargaining, the goats were purchased for Rs 10,000 each | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

We posed as [Muslim] community members and asked for the price at which goats were sold. We also surveyed the goat mandis

The Jain community in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk is basking in its newfound attention after ‘rescuing’ the goats | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

“We were not afraid, but we didn’t want the buyers to play with our emotions. Had they known we were non-Muslims, they would have sold the goats to us at a higher price, and we wanted to rescue as many goats as possible,” said Vivek.

The buying process involved multiple rounds of tough bargaining, but finally the goats were purchased at an average price of Rs 10,000 each. However, Vivek was appalled by the manner in which these goats were treated and sold at the mandis in Old Delhi.

“It felt like we were buying clothes from a street vendor. The goats were crammed together and handled poorly. There was no sensitivity towards these living, breathing creatures,” he said with utter disgust.

Vivek Jain, 30, is a chartered accountant | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

Meanwhile, the courtyard at the temple’s Dharamshala, normally used for weddings and religious events, was cleared out to accommodate the rescued goats. When the teams returned to the temple in the evening with the goats in tow, the other community members waiting there greeted them with beaming smiles, overjoyed at their success.

“Finally, we managed to rescue over 100 goats. Such was the excitement,” Vivek smiled.

He revealed they had raised Rs 15 lakh from Jain community members across Gujarat, Hyderabad, Kerala, Punjab, and Maharashtra. That very evening, Vivek, Chirag and others used the remaining funds to purchase fodder like ladyfinger and spinach, the sacks of which lay stacked outside the courtyard.

Sacks of fodder like ladyfinger and spinach kept outside the courtyard | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

Gloating over goat

A message was circulated on WhatsApp and Facebook groups appealing, “Please contribute to this noble cause so that we can save some animals from being slaughtered. We will send these goats to Jain-run cow shelters and bakrashalas [goat shelters].”

Vivek admitted he never imagined they would be able to purchase even four goats. But their plea struck a chord, with donation requests pouring in, allowing them to raise Rs 15 lakh within a day.

Then came the big question — where to keep the 124 “rescued” goats? A Jain-run goat shelter in Baghpat has been identified to take them in two days’ time, said Aman Jain, who runs a handloom shop in Chandni Chowk.

It’s their religion, and if saving animals (like goats) is part of it, we don’t mind. Let everyone practise what brings them peace

— Mushtaq, 50, a resident of Chandni Chowk

In Baghpat’s Aminagar Sarai, 40-year-old Manoj Jain was constructing a dedicated enclosure for the newly arrived goats, which would undergo a 15-day isolation before mingling with others. Eight years ago, Manoj had started the bakrashala after feeling compelled to protect goats from butchering. His shelter currently houses 615 goats, all rescued from Eid celebrations across India.

The ‘rescued’ goats will be shifted to a Jain-run goat shelter in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

The shelter house that runs on the principle of “Ahimsa Parmo Dharma” (non violence is supreme) bought 250 goats during Barkid last year.

“Remember, these are all male [billy] goats, not females. It’s the male goats that get slaughtered during this festival. Our shelter has taken on the responsibility of caring for these goats until the end,” Manoj Jain explained over the phone.

He said the shelter runs entirely on contributions from community members across India.

Imran and Mushtaq, an elderly Muslim duo out for Eid greetings, stopped by the Jain temple. Imran pointed it out, “This is the temple that has kept all those goats.”

Imran admitted seeing the Jains take the goats on Sunday but only understood the reason after videos and news of the incident flooded the internet Monday morning.

“Our religion asks us to sacrifice goats on Bakrid, which we do out of devotion to God. We don’t force or promote it,” the 45-year-old said.

His friend Mushtaq, 50, smiled, “It’s their religion, and if saving animals (like goats) is part of it, we don’t mind. Let everyone practise what brings them peace.”

(Edited by Prashant)