“In my country, cows are more important than a woman’s life with more security,” writes Delhi-based photographer, Sujatro Ghosh, as the caption of the first picture he posted on Instagram of a woman wearing a cow mask. With mob lynchings in the name of cow slaughter becoming common news today, Sujatro created latex cow masks for women to wear to be safe in the Indian society, that is obsessed with the bovine in this day and age.

While they might appear funny, Sujatro further writes that these pictures are a “silent form of protest”. He is photographing women in the national capital and Kolkata, his native city. The pictures give out a strong message of what the country is coming to even after slogans of progress are strong in the air.

“It is one form of social media (Instagram) where I think that the extremist people haven’t entered yet. So somehow I have a niche community of art lovers and photographers there.”

He talked to SheThePeople.TV about his protest and how it started. “I come from Calcutta and it is only three years back that I shifted to Delhi. Since my upbringing is in Calcutta, I haven’t ever seen the extremism which I experienced in Delhi as here each and everything revolves around politics and religion and both combined. And this volatile combination hampered me over and over again. So this was something I felt over a period of time.”

Cow mask photoseries
Cow mask photoseries (Picture by Sujatro Ghosh)

Sujatro began working on the concept from June 11 and he had it sorted out in his mind as to what emotion he wanted to capture in the images. “When I started this project, I knew what I was doing. I had my thoughts placed correctly. I just wanted to implement it in different ways.”

Sujatro chose the medium of Instagram for his pictures for a reason. “There needs to be a proper way to play this art form out in public. I chose Instagram to post my pictures because I have a huge following there, so it somehow helped me to reach more people. And I feel it is one form of social media where I think that the extremist people haven’t entered yet. So somehow I have a niche community of art lovers and photographers there.”

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Once he shared his pictures on Facebook, he was flooded with calls and messages of appreciation. But negative comments have also poured in — though in lesser amount. About trolls, Sujatro thinks, “Negative comments are bound to come but I will be extremely happy if something saner and debatable comes up because maximum number of the debates are completely different and they don’t tend to think and only say whatever they feel on the political ground.”

“I ask bhakts, if they can protect cows, why they can’t protect a woman?”

“I have got comments like ‘this is what happens in Mamata Banerjee’s jihadi Bengal’, ‘obviously only Bengal can produce such people’ etc. These comments are mostly hilarious and keep me going,” added Sujatro.

Cow mask photoseries
Cow Mask seen at India Gate (Picture by Sujatro Ghosh)

The pictures are not really funny in Sujatro’s view, but they are alarming. “So whenever you look at the pictures, you might think that this guy is making fun of himself shooting these pictures in public spaces.”

But he reveals that when he was shooting in the capital and places like the India Gate, people thought he was crazy but they never came up to him and asked him why he was doing what he was doing. “Nobody understands how deep-rooted the problem is. But this is my way of showing that I completely respect cows, but I respect women more. I ask bhakts, if they can protect cows, why they can’t protect a woman.”

Instead of calling it a photo-story, Sujatro calls it a discourse with the masses. So he will continue with the project. He is getting many offers of collaboration to portray these images in different forms and continue the interaction with a wider section of society.