Where is the travelling cow going next?
If you haven’t seen a picture of Sujatro Ghosh’s viral ‘cow mask’ campaign yet, you might be living under rock. The 23-year-old photographer from Kolkata has the whole world talking about his photographs of faceless women wearing the latex head of a cow, begging the question: are cows more important than we are?
The photo series, which started in front of the India Gate in Delhi, has received massive criticism and glowing praise alike for its stark imagery. And the ‘movement’, as Sujatro calls it, is not about to stop now. “I am going to six cities up north in the next two weeks and then heading south. But for my safety and that of the women I will be shooting, I can’t tell you when and where,” he tells us. This comes after death threats on social media, labelling him a “Jihadi stuck in Mamata Banerjee’s regime”, and others sentencing “him and his models to be slau-ghtered and then fed to anti-nationals like Shobhaa De”.
Financing the rest of his silent protest through a fundraising platform that raised Rs. 24,000 in five days, he adds, “Most of the funding will go toward my travel to see this through. I know that my message is making an impact though, because a majority of the funding coming in is from women.” The estimated cost of the project on the web platform bitgiving.com is Rs. 75,000.
Having previously worked with LGBTQ groups and on environment projects, it’s evident that Sujatro has spent time developing a thick skin. “I’ve been a feminist since college,” he says. However, he makes it a point not to reveal any personal triggers that inspired this. “I don’t want the focus of this cause to be shifted by a personal story, although there have been a few,” he tells us pointedly.
We have to wonder what the most important woman in his life — his mother — has to say about the campaign. “Both my parents are very supportive. They know I’m doing this for the greater good.” He adds, “They only ask me to be careful while I’m at it.” But how long can he bounce off the ugly threats spewed off the digital vine and otherwise? “Threats don’t scare me,” Sujatro responds. “Cows treated as more important than women in my country, do.”
Suchismita Panda, 22, Delhi
I was intrigued when Sujatro put up that first picture and I knew I immediately wanted to be a part of this. I have friends who have been harrassed on the road and online. This is a campaign that is creating a dialogue instead of a dictum. Every time I read a comment beneath a picture. I can tell that we are making a change.
Prerana Miriyala, 20, Hyderabad
I agree with the underlying notion, but I think the approach is lack-lustre. The idea to draw a comparison by putting a cow mask on a woman for creative propaganda aimed at sensitising Indians towards women's safety seems counter intuitive. It feels more like ridicule and trivialisation.
Nicole Urvi, 22, Kolkata
What happens with a lot of us who are students, and not entirely independent just yet, is that we can’t take to the streets to fight for a cause. So I thought, posing for a picture for a campaign like this was a way where I could do my bit.
Annie Preethisa, 24, Hyderabad
I think this is a great way to grab people’s attention and get them thinking. He makes a valid point, how come people are not as passionate about women’s safety as they are about cows! This series is a step in the right direction, and I hope it takes us closer to a day where women can feel ‘as safe as a cow’.
Mathur Sathya, 25, Hyderabad
How often do we see someone linking two issues so beautifully? This is powerful enough. If this doesn't motivate us what would? 40 years later children will read about this in Wikipedia as inspiration for Peaceful protest.