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Back to Cow Slaughter

September 27, 2010

In a sign of increasing radical-ness in liberal Karnataka, the BJP government proposed a ban of cattle slaughter a few months ago. It did meet with wide protests, or wide acceptance, depending on what newspaper you read.

I read this article in the Caravan today, which gives a more interesting perspective on the history of the issue.

As BJP, RSS and other radical organizations put it, the cow is sacred to the Hindus and cow slaughter hurts sentiments of the people, hence must be banned.

But as this article points out, the Hindus in this case is largely the upper class practitioners – the Brahmins.

It is the farmer who milks them with his hands, bathes them, polishes their skin to keep insects away, washes the cowshed, mates them with the healthiest partners available, stays awake all night during delivery to make sure the calf doesn’t hit its head on the ground and the cow, in its post-delivery depression, doesn’t kill herself by eating the placenta. These along with several such chores of affection and care give him that legitimacy to the animal over those who give a token roti to a wandering city cow, and leave them to survive on rotten vegetables from garbage heaps, which include toilet litter, construction debris, and medical waste.

And the farmer is not a Brahmin generally. (And I was pleasantly surprised to see Devegowda opposing the cow slaughter!) As the article further points out:

So there is a disconnect between the realities of lower Hindu castes, Dalits, tribal people, Christians and Muslims who rear cattle, and that of a few cultural elites from the Brahmin and Brahminised upper castes who don’t like to get their hands dirty doing manual labour, but construct a theory of the sacred cow.

So is this a caste thing? Absolutely! Were you hiding under a rock all these days? This isn’t just about cow slaughter, but they are also promoting vegetarianism as a ‘healthier’ way of life. The point here isn’t what is healthy – it is about a choice to lead your life a particular way. If we begin banning slaughter of animals because of religious sentiments, it will have to be applied for every religion equally. Along with other food items that could offend someone’s sense of religion.

Some of my friends argue that this is a case where “majority” should have a say. And the majority is vegetarians, they say.

Is it true? Even by the statistical count of the castes that consume meat, this falls short of the “majority.” Not to mention all the religions that support meat eating as a way of life.

I am not saying anything new here. Most of these arguments have been presented by both sides and all we can do is wait, and hope sense prevails in the Government. As I mentioned much earlier, this is a violation of fundamental rights of a citizen. We should be able to eat what we choose and practice what religion we choose.

So, by that definition, how can I be jailed if I choose to eat beef?

What is shocking to me is the amount of support I am seeing from people who I thought knew better. This is the only the symptom of a disease, which if encouraged now, will swallow all the progress India has made so far.

Hindutva was merely a word I had grown up with. I figured it would be used lesser as I grew up and people became more intelligent regarding the problems with Hindutva. But it seems to be gaining popularity. Of course, what is popular is not always right but it definitely gets people to listen and some to agree.

What do they agree with? That cow slaughter is bad. Is it? Look at the business part of it. I do not have exact figures to quote about how much beef is sold and the revenue from it, but it is  basic business sense that if you ban the consumption of one form of meat, it will lead to an increase in demand on other forms and thereby an imbalance. Not to mention the livelihood of several people is at stake.

True, some other states have banned cow slaughter. Which states? Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat. States where BJP or some faction of it holds a majority. States that strongly promote Hindutva. States where caste politics rule, communal riots are common and the line between religions runs deep. (Okay, I don’t know much about Rajasthan, but I definitely do mean the other two).

That is not the path we want Karnataka to take. We do not want our cities to have another Godhra, for people to hate their neighbours simply because of religion and someone cooks meat. I am not exaggerating. The issues always start small somewhere but there is a political and religious agenda behind it.

Caste politics is an ugly truth in India’s political platform. And the current batch of politicians seem to be doing exactly what the British did – divide and rule. Except there are more fragments now – Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, the ‘higher caste’ people… whoever they might be.

There are already several temples and more saffron-robed people in the region compared to 5 years ago. Religious freedom is the key to harmony, and to progress.  I want the freedom to wear what I want, eat what I want and drink what I want without the government interfering. This is why we are a democracy. It is shocking enough that people of my generation, who are supposed to be growing more lenient, have more hardlined ideas. We don’t want this to grow.

And giving in a single inch on an issue is just opening the flood gates for the religious kooks to just rush through it and trample all the progress we have made in co-existing peacefully.

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