The 61-year-old animal rights activist, Friederike Irina Bruning -- Sudevi Mataji -- has dedicated all her life for 1,800 stray and helpless cows in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. Recently, Bruning threatened to reject her Padma Shri as her VISA extension was rejected
Friederike Irina Bruning, a 61-year-old German animal rights activist, was honored with India’s fourth highest civilian Padma Shri award on the Republic Day this year. She is a “Gau Rakshak” to 1,800 sick, injured and abandoned cows. She came to India as a tourist from Berlin, Germany, in 1978. She found her life’s purpose at Radha Kund in Vrindavan.
It changed her goals, religion and name. Bruning is now popularly known as Sudevi Dasi. She runs a cow shelter, ‘Radha Surabhi Gaushala’, at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh state. She also runs an emergency ambulance service for cows.
About 40 years ago, Sudevi Das found an injured young bovine at Mathura. She nursed the cow. She then decided to give up a luxurious life in Berlin and shift to India to dedicate her life for the needy cows. In the past four decades, she has looked after thousands of abandoned cows.
“I came to India as a tourist. I then read the holy Bhagavat Gita. It was then that I realized that without a mentor, it is not possible to achieve salvation. Somebody asked me to visit Vrindavan. After arriving at Vrindavan, I went to Radha Kund. After reaching here, I decided that I would stay here. With the advice of one of my neighbors, I started helping the cows. I bought several books on the welfare of cows. I leant speaking Hindi as well,” says Sudevi.
In India, many people milk cows and abandon them as they can’t afford to take care of them in old age. Some cows fall sick and become immobile. “On one occasion, I saw a young bovine lying on the road for its fate. Its legs were fractured. I helped it,” says Sudevi.
She added, “It was then that I got my life’s purpose. I started with one cow, then I got 10, then 100, sooner the space got too much occupied. I didn’t have accommodation for more. So, I got a three-acre plot of land at rent. Now, I have 1800 cows in my shed.”
She manages her expenses through her inherited property back home in Berlin. She used her parents’ money to set up the cowshed. She incurs an expense Rs 30-35 lacs every month on workers’ salaries, food grains and medicines for cows. The money she has at her disposal is not enough to look after 1,800 cows and some 60 workers at the cowshed. At present, there are 200 blind cows and more than 600 calves at the shed.
“We are short of necessary resources. We do not have sufficient space as well. But, if somebody brings another injured cow, I keep it. A few cows die during medication. We do not get as much money as is required for their treatment. We get donations from people. However, we don’t get any kind of help from the government,” says Sudevi.
Umesh Baghel, a worker at the Surabhi Gauseva Niketan, pointed to a cow which was hit by a car. “We were informed about it over the phone. Our ambulance reached there and brought it here. Its legs were fractured. Majority of the cows brought here are in the same condition,” he said. Ramveer, another worker, says “I am working here for the past 15 years. Our didi is very kind-hearted. She provides medication to the injured cows all by herself.”
The cowshed and those working there are known for their concern for the animal’s welfare. The cow milk is not sold at the shed. In fact, extra milk is bought for those calves whose mothers have died. Moreover, when a cow gives birth to a calf, then Kheer is made for Gwaliyan (selfless workers) with the first five days of milk output.
“We chant Ramnam (lord Rama’s name) in the cowshed. We also pour drops of the holy Ganga’s water in the mouth of dying cows. We try to cure sick cows to the best of our ability,” says Ramveer.
Bruning threatened to reject Padma Shri
Bruning came to India first as a tourist and then on student visa when she started working for stray cows in Vrindavan.
Recently her visa application was rejected since there is no provision for a conversion of a student’s visa into an employment visa. In emotional outburst, she threatened to return her Padma Shri award after her application was rejected by the Ministry of External Affairs.
After the news of the rejection for her visa appeared in the media, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took note of the matter and sought a report. While Bruning applied for a fresh extension of her student’s visa under the norms, she has been told that she will be getting her visa soon.