As residents of the “secular” and democratic country – India, whose constitution “guarantees” everyone the right and freedom to practice their own religion; we all should be proud of the secular fabric that exists in the country. But the recent controversy about Madhya Pradesh government’s decision to strengthen the existing cow slaughter prohibition Act (Madhya Pradesh Gauvansh Pratishedh Adhiniyam 2004) made me re-think about the greatness of India when it came to being “secular”.
I searched the internet and read about some of the laws that exist with respect to animal slaughter in the country and was quite baffled to know that the Directive Principle of State Policy in Constitution calls for protection of cow and progeny. Cow holds a “special” status in the country (Ala Brahmins) and slaughter, possession, sale, transport of beef and beef products is prohibited and amounts to “crime” which can even lead a person into the prison (T&C Apply) . But the same generosity is not shown to other animals. May be they are ‘Dalits’ of the animal community. Sounds funny? It isn’t! In fact it freaks me out that how we want to shove the beliefs and values of a particular community (Hindu) just because it is in the majority. Today, nearly two-third of Indian states have banned cow slaughter. Main features of legislations enacted by the States/UTs on cow slaughter How can we curtail the freedom of others at the expense of a particular community? Cow might be holy to the Hindus but it isn’t for others. What about the Muslims, Christians, Parsis & Sikhs who want to eat beef but can’t eat because it’s not available in their cities. And even if it is available; finding a beef shop is like ‘finding needle in a haystack’. Will Ganga stop washing your sins if people set up a beef shop in Haridwar? We never bother about the slaughter of pigs and selling of pork which is prohibited in Islam. Why? The answer is simple – because Muslims make only a certain 13.4% of the total population of India. Firstly, state should NOT have any in what people can sell (Exclude drugs, arms, etc) or eat and there should be no second thoughts about it. Secondly, even if it has (which it should NOT), why should it have double standards? Doesn’t it hamper the very idea of secularism? We are in the 21st century and instead of moving ahead we want to go back into the dark ages. What more could explain Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s claims of cow dung being the solution for every god damn problem and Cow being our only savior! As one MP of the party said “Marne se bachna hai to gai ki sharan mein aana hoga (To escape death, leave yourself at the mercy of the cow),” This just makes me sad!!
What makes me even sadder is the hypocritical ‘holier than thou’ attitude of Hindus towards cow. Technically speaking; Hinduism is based on the concept of omnipresence of the Divine, and the presence of a soul in all creatures, including animals. Thus, by that definition, killing ANY animal would be a sin. No? But still they eat & I think it’s fine! Who am I to dictate? But I fail to understand my Hindu brothers & sisters who are OKAY with eating all sorts of non vegetarian delicacies ranging from chicken & meat to fishes & prawns but when it comes to cow the ‘Virat Hindu’ in them rises. Can anyone be more hypocritical than this? I can’t understand the “compassion” that comes out only for cow and not for other living beings. Their compassion, like them, has double standards. If a cow and a dog is slaughtered in front of my eyes, I would feel equally sad for both and no where will be my sadness more for the cow. To me; both are living beings. Also, why & how cow became so “sacred” for Hindus and other animals didn’t remains a mystery to me because there are MANY Hindus who do eat beef. Also, to my knowledge no where any Hindu scripture professes special status to cow. And the same logic applies to Muslims also who are OKAY with eating all other non vegetarian cuisine but have issues when it comes to Pig because it is “unclean”. Give me a break!
In a book published a few years ago on India’s dietary traditions, Prof DN Jha, spoke about historical evidence of beef-eating practices in ancient India. Historian Romila Thapar also said the same “The eating of beef was reserved for specific occasions, such as rituals or when welcoming a guest of high status,” But as expected, she drew flack from the ‘rightists’ of our country and history text books for Class VI authored by her were changed! It’s high time we realize and speak up against the archaic ideas and notions that exist in our country. India faces zillions of problems today – inflation, depreciating value of rupee, terrorism, rising prices, corruption, poverty, unemployment etc. but we are still trapped in this ‘what-to-eat’ and ‘what-not-to-eat’ debate! We surely have lop sided priorities. And as I end this post; I leave you all with a question to ponder upon – “Do you want to “talibanise” even the food in India?”
P.S. – I don’t advocate ‘vegetarianism’ anywhere. To each his own!