Cow-Beef and Political Scenario
Too many incidents of atrocities against Dalits-Muslims have been making headlines during last two years. Some of these like the one of Una (Gujarat, July 2016) have shaken the conscience of sensitive citizens of the country. This one came on the back of the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq (Dadri, UP June 2015) on the ground of killing a calf and eating beef.
While today Narendra Modi seems to be giving a message that 80% so called Gau Rakshaks are anti-social elements; same Modi had used this issue as a polarising factor in 2014 elections. One just has to recall his speech in the wake of 2014 elections and one may become clear about the reason for his silence. Mr. Modi had stated “Rana Pratap dedicated his life to gau raksha (cow protection). He fought wars and sacrificed young men to protect the cow…” He derogatorily referred to the export of beef as Pink revolution and criticised the same. He also accused that if Congress comes to power and for the sake of beef export cows will be slaughtered.
At the same time, two other incidents have come to light. One is that in the BJP ruled Rajasthan for the first time a ‘cow ministry’ with a minister in-charge has been created. In the same state in one of the Gaushals (Cow protection shed) in Hingonia; hundreds of cows died due to the neglect of the state machinery. At the same time what has been reported is that since the BJP came to power the budget of grant meant for upkeep of cow shelters has been drastically reduced by the BJP led NDA.
These recent incidents are just the tip hiding the intense atmosphere of Hate being created around this issue. What has happened lately is that such cow related violence has intensified as Cow vigilantes know that the Central Government and many BJP ruled state Governments are sympathetic to them.
It is true that there are some Constitutional provisions for preservation of Cow progeny. “After much debate and deliberation in the Constituent Assembly and a demand from a few members of the assembly, to include a total ban on the slaughter of cows as part of fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution, a compromise was reached and the protection of the revered bovine found place in the Directive Principles of state policy, which incorporates this Hindu sentiment in a somewhat guarded and hesitant form.”
It is to be recalled that this was couched in the secular language, ‘Organization of agriculture and animal husbandry: The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle’
As such twenty four states in India are already having some sort of a law either prohibiting or limiting the slaughter of cows and other cattle, it is the more recent draconian acts passed by states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and more recently Maharashtra in 2015, criminalizing cow slaughter as a non-bailable offence, that need to be revisited and studied in terms of their constitutionality and of their being violative of the fundamental rights of certain groups of people in the country and being against the very secular spirit of the Indian Constitution
It is clear that on one hand the budget for cow shelters has been cut down, on the other the Cow shelters have been neglected despite creating Cow ministries and yet at another level, the violence has been instigated against Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow. As such ‘Cow as mother’ was the ploy used by Hindu communalism all through from late nineteenth century. At that time, there was a matching slogan of ‘pig as an object of hate’ from Muslim communalism on the battleground.
Occasionally has heard of beef in the temple being put in by Bajrang Dal activists. On a subconscious level the issue of beef has been kept very much alive and now it has been made more important one as far as communal polarisation is concerned.Talking at economic level cow has been an important part of the agricultural economy. The old bullocks and cows being used for food by large sections of society has been the norm. Apart from Adivasis, sections of Dalits, Muslims, Christians and even upper caste Hindus consumed beef, as a cheap and rich source of protein.
Historically it is interesting to note that beef was part of food habits from Vedic times. Cow got transformed in to mother hood and a major tool of identity politics later. Bhimrao Ambedkar in his celebrated essay “Did Hindus never eat beef?” demonstrates this very well. At popular level Swami Vivekananda confirms this “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.”
It is not that society cannot resolve the issue of contrasting food habits and faith in an amicable way. Gandhi shows the way and one wishes that Gandhi’ way of resolving diverse things are understood at deep level. On the issue of beef eating he said, “…beef is not their (Muslims, added) ordinary food. Their ordinary food is the same as that of the millions.
What is true is that there are very few Muslims who are vegetarians from religious motive. Therefore, they will take meat, including beef, when they can get it. But during the greater part of the years, millions of Muslims, owing to poverty, go without meat of any kind. These are facts. But the theoretical question demands a clear answer…I maintain that Muslims should have full freedom to slaughter cows…”
By now the Muslim as the ‘Cow killer’ has been propagated so much by communal forces that yeoman efforts by those; wanting peace, tolerance and pluralism; are needed to overcome the hate built around this propaganda.