In Uttar Pradesh Hindus worship king cobra. It is Naag Baba to them. But when the Baba threatens their lives, they call for a Muslim and have him kill the cobra! In an India, the majority of which is living in poverty, are compelled to have their young children earn livelihood for the family, in an India where indebted farmers commit suicide, in an India where the government enacts Right to Education Act yet small children workers are a common scene in hotels, factories and industries and in an India where beggars still exist, should we expect that the indebted farmers feed the animals that are barren or are an economic liability?
By A. Hameed Yousuf
“Beep, beep, beep! Give way to the Beef.” And the Modi government gave way. No, instead it inter-changed its conveyance. Now the rath of economic well-being was cleverly replaced with the old-age cart.
One Generation Back
In fact, at a time when India has been using 4G internet connectivity, the Bharatiya Janata Party sticks to its 3G plan: Gau, Geeta and Ghar Wapsi. The gau or the cow symbolizes its economic policies, the Geeta its academic approach and Ghar Wapsi its social formula.
Anyone expressing a different view other than the advocates of cow, the Geeta and Back at Home is taken as the ‘other’ not yielding to their misinterpreted and twisted explanations of Hindu philosophy. The proponents of the 3G scheme wish that only their views are respected and that their policies are accepted blindly.
Whether it is the matter of cow protection or stuffing Geeta in the academic curriculum or insisting over the self-explained back to home scheme, according to them these are steps towards preservation and propagation of Hindutva. They confess that in an atmosphere where freedom of speech or freedom of choosing faith is a reality, the so-called Hindutva will be discarded!
Whether it is a religion or any ism enjoying patronage from the ruling institution, if their teachings are understood truly, they never narrow down the land on the believers in other faiths and isms. Hinduism is makes no difference in the case. It is only due to political reasons that the so-called socio-religious leaders misinterpret the teachings.
The party presently ruling India swears its allegiance to Hinduism. The man-written rules and regulations of the religion could not stand the test of the changing time, and hence have been discarded. Now, the men in the ruling hierarchies are bent on bringing back the old rules, may be with some opportunistic modifications from themselves.
To them, the 3G scheme will help in Hinduisation of India, which means India will cease to be the world’s largest democracy. The elements that time and again remind the minorities of their numbers, despite the fact that India is a democracy, will be constitutionally declaring the minorities as second class citizens! The killing of spirit of democracy and culling various democratic rights, like freedom to speech, practice and to choose one’s own food, has already began ringing alarming bells audible enough to those having insight and capacity to sense the upcoming situation.
India becoming less tolerant
Undoubtedly, there is an atmosphere of rising intolerance in India. The writers, poets and essayists have returned their literary prizes in protest against the deteriorating ideological situation of the country.
The strong agitation started by the academia against rising intolerance has got support also of the film industry and scientists apart from the other well-knownand less popular individuals and organizations.
“In just over a year and a half, the ambitions of development have given way to a narrative of divisiveness. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime seems to have run out of steam in a very short time and seems to be in the grip of Hindu fringe elements. The BJP has not yet demonstrated any will to rein in the radical right groups, which have been causing unrest throughout the country. Modi has apparently remained silent on the issue, failing to articulate his opposition to the rising intolerance in any convincing manner,” wrote Sanjay Kumar on thediplomat.com.
The well-known Indian historian, Romila Thapar, expressed deep concern at the present state of affairs and said “we are now a society that fears the terror of extremist groups. They are terrorists, their function is to evoke terror and spread fear in various communities by killing and threatening people, while their patrons in mainstream politics protect them.”
Can India become what Nepal couldn’t?
In this background, some of the questions require answers: Is it that exhibiting of intolerance is the first step towards establishment of a Hindu Rashtra? If the foundation stone is intolerance then what would be the building called? Will the proposed Rashtra not believe in co-existence, brotherhood, cosmopolitanism, diversity or variety of religions, languages and cultures? And the biggest of all questions is: can such a Rashtra be a practical reality?
In fact, only a positive answer to the last question will give rise to the preceding questions. But in view of the international situation the answer to the question is in negative. We have seen that despite strong will the neighbouring country Nepal could not become a Hindu Rashtra. So, will India?
Then there is the question: why gullible public are made to believe that establishment of Hindu Rashtra is imminent? And why do the politicians speak of Hindu Rashtra and repeatedly pretend to be committed to their 3G plan? The simple answer is: politics. Common men are easily persuaded in the name of religion.
The 3G Politics
Whether it is Ghar Wapsi, the Geeta or Gau, all are solely political issues. They are exploited to polarize votes if, when and how necessary. In the near past we have come across the buzz over Ghar Wapsi and the Geeta. And off late, there is uproar over Gau.
Many Hindus, in South India and especially the low castes, slaughter cows or eat the beef. In the census they are counted as Hindus despite the fact that they eat the flesh of the most revered animal of Hindu mythology. As the architects and writers of Hindu scriptures have convinced almost all Hindus to believe that the words in the scriptures are divinely inspired, similarly they also expect to fool the remaining Hindus! It is believed that in the name of cow all Hindus, or at least the greater part of them, may be united against non-Hindus. They also hope to convince the other Hindus to support the call for ban on beef due to cow being revered and worshipped. It is worth mentioning here that when talking about beef ban we usually mean the ban on cow meat.
What is beef?
Beef is described differently by different dictionaries. It is “meat that comes from a cow,” according to Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary. Online www.thefreedictionary.com defines beef as “The flesh of a slaughtered full-grown steer, bull, ox, or cow.” And in the words of Wikipedia, “Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially cattle. Beef can be harvested from bulls, heifers or steers. Its acceptability as a food source varies in different parts of the world.” The Cambridge Advanced Learners’ Dictionary reads that beef is “the flesh of cattle (=cows) which is eaten.”
Political significance of beef
The above definitions overall indicate that beef is not specific to a certain species of big animal. Even buffalo meat is referred to as beef. But in political terms beef is a word exclusive to cow meat. In its political context beef has been a sensitive, beneficial and extremely harmful topic. A majority of Indian Hindus, among other things, also have a religious belief about beef, and for majority of meat eaters beef, not in its exclusive term, is the only cheap and available option. This dichotomy of interests has been leading to physical and intellectual clashes that intensify with political interventions.
Prejudice in food habits
Political manipulation of the term to mean onlyu cow meat and not buffalo meat, has been the spur for emotional turmoil in the minds of simple-minded Hindus on the food habits of many. Whether it was the time of Muslim rulers or British imperialists they yielded to the demands of partial prohibition on consuming cow meat. In the post-Independence India, too, the advocates of ban on cow meat have been partially successful. In various states of India slaughtering the cow is banned either partially or fully. In these states people are not free to choose their diets.
State level legislations about beef
According to the information available, several state Governments and Union Territories (UTs) have enacted cattle preservation laws in one form or the other. With the exception of Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Laksh-adweep all other states and union territories have legislations to prevent the slaughter of cow and its progeny. Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have the strictest laws banning slaughter of cow and its progeny, including bulls and bullocks of all ages. Violations of the laws on cattle slaughter are both cognizable and non-bailable offences. The maximum term of imprisonment varies from 6 months to 5 years and the fine from INR 1,000 to INR 10,000.
Religious perspective on meat
In major religions Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism sacrificing animals is rewarding. The animals do not exclude the source of beef. However, the apparent claim of Buddhism and Jainism to have faith in non-violence has introduced laws that prohibit killing of those having life and whose voice man can listen or understand.
Islam says that whole universe has been created for the greatest of the creatures i.e. man. That which is edible, man should eat it and that which he can use for his other purposes he should use them. All the things in the universe are in fact allowed except what Islam has declared not-allowed. Beef is not among the list of the not-allowed. Yes, Islam does teach not to use anything except when and how much it is needed. Since halal animals have been created for man, he should consume their flesh after acquiring it through the prescribed method. For killing the animals Islam prescribes the least painful method i.e. a swift and deep incision with a very sharp knife on the throat, cutting the wind pipe, jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides but leaving the spinal cord intact.
In Christianity there is no prohibition on eating beef.
According to Judaism, an unblemished red cow was an important part of ancient Jewish rituals. The cow was sacrificed and burned in a precise ritual, and the ashes were added to water used in the ritual purification of a person who had come in to contact with a human corpse.
Vedas mention consumption of beef
The Vedic period is a glorious period of Hindu history. In the Vedas we find the mention of eating beef and cow progeny sacrifice. “In some of the Vedic traditions, “a barren cow was killed at the time of marriage and sometimes for guests.” The slaughter of a sterile bull too was performed for some sacrifices meant for gods. The Brahmanas who considered host of the guests next to worshipping God Himself would kill a big goat or a barren cow for a distinguished guest,” writes J. Maseeh in his article Vishwa Mangal Gou Gram Yatra: Supporting Cow Protection.
According to the Hindu religious scriptures, amongst the God’s creations some are eaters while others are to be eaten. Verse 30 in Chapter 5 of Manusmriti says, “The eaters who eat the flesh of those to be eaten do nothing bad, even if he does it day after day, for God Himself created some to be eaten and some to be eaters.”
Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, preached non-violence and henceforth prescribed non- vegetarian diets. It is believed that it was the effect of their preaching that Hindus too adopted vegetarian diets which of course excluded beef. Otherwise, there are traditions that Hindus in India, since the Vedic era, were also beef eaters.
How cow became sacred
“ Buddha and Mahavira impressed upon their followers the need of avoiding slaughter of animals and succeeded to such a great extent in changing the attitude of the people that even Brahmanical works such as the Mahabharata and the Manusmriti prescribe sacrifices where no slaughter of animals is involved,” writes the historian Om Prakash.
“While Buddhism, Jainism and the orders of rulers like Asoka and Kumarapala turned Indians into vegetarians, the influence of Vedic religion primarily and later on the influx of many foreign tribes kept Indians still non-vegetarian,” he writes in Cultural History of India.
Gautama Buddha wanted to set people free from Brahmin slavery who sacrificed lakhs of animals for God. He would prefer letting animals free than sacrificing them. At the time, people were dependent almost on cattle; hence they found teachings of Buddha more in their favour and embraced Buddhism in large numbers. The Brahmins, seeing this, imposed a ban on animal and cow slaughter in an attempt to prevent the mass conversion to Buddhism and attributed it to Hindu religion. The concoction gave way to the sacredness of the cow as the animal had already some attachment to the religion.
In India, a large number of people, not excluding Hindus, use beef as their staple food. India is at the top in the list of beef exporting countries. But for political reasons now and then the issue of beef is raised leading to tension especially between Muslims and Hindus. (See related article on beef in this issue).
Benefits of beef for Hindutva extremists
In the recent times, there have been many incidents wherein taking law and order was thrown to the winds in an attempt to validate punishment for those who were, supposedly, consuming beef. Whether some were actually consuming beef or goat meet was conveniently forgotten in the heat of the frenzy whipped up by politicians to mobilize mobs to take punitive measures. The murders in the name of beef are becoming a common phenomenon.
In the wake of Dadri lynching of a Muslim man just due to the false propaganda that he had beef in his fridge, both the UP government and the patrons of the ideological terrorists received international condemnation. Mr. Azam Khan, whose SP government could do nothing to control the situation, tried to play an emotional game when he announced his intention to write to the UN about rising intolerance in India. Instead of ensuring an action by the government of the party he belongs to, Mr. Khan diverted people’s attention. UP’s Dadri, however,is not the only case of vigilante justice by hooligans. Murder, loots and harassment in the name of beef are par for the course, forcing the meat-eaters, especially the dalits and Muslims to live in a miasma of fear.
The self-styled guardians of cow progeny exploit their perception about beef as an excuse to browbeat and take personal revenge. The bunch of the hooligans takes pride in launching a planned and collective onslaught on the innocent citizens whom they suspect of being involved in beef consumption. It is not guaranteed that they show the same zeal to protect the old cow progeny living uncared, unattended in various cow sheds across the country.
Do they really want ban on beef?
As far as I know Hindu religion is about ahimsa (non-violence). Pure Hindus do not deem it allowed to even kill the smallest living creature. But for reasons unknown they do not have objection over other kinds of meat, for example taken from goats or chickens. Only they can rationalize this ambivalence in their not-killing-any-living-thing philosophy to include only cow progeny. Anyway, even then, do they really want that beef be banned?
The answer hangs between yes or not. Because it will be against natural law. At a time when anything having no commercial interest is neglected to get extinct, it is unwise to prepare a heap of liabilities, especially when cows are kept by the farmers who are not economically stable. In fact, the advocates of ban on beef indirectly will cause decrease in number of cow progeny and one day their number will match the religious guides. When it comes to milk and milk products people already prefer buffaloes. In the future, we may visualize cows kept for religious purposes only. So, ban on the beef is not to save the cows; rather it is a slow genocide of the cow on the hands of its protectors. Anyway, many of the commercial exploiters of cow meat for export are Hindu firms. No voice is raised against them owing to their economic clout. So, from commercial point of view, too, banning beef completely will be an erroneous judgement.
India’s economy and beef factor
For a considerable number of people in India, beef is a source of cheap meat, and many people are associated with beef business. Banning beef strictly is likely to affect the source of livelihood of many. India is already going through unemployment and underemployment issues, enforcing the beef ban will render more employable people without any employment at all.
According to a study The Economic Impact of Beef Ban in India published on www.usindiapolicy.org, “India ranks fifth in the world in beef production, seventh in domestic consumption and first in exports. The exported worth of bovine meat in 2013 was $4.5 billion. Between April-November 2014, the sale of bovine meat and meat products was worth $3.3 billion compared to $2.8 billion in the same period the previous year, registering a 16.7 per cent increase. Virtually all Indian beef exports are labelled ‘buffalo meat’ since the export of cow meat is banned in India.”
The report adds, “Livestock rearing and related occupations employ about 10 per cent of the rural labor force, making it an integral part of the village economy. Small and marginal farmers rely on income from cattle as a supplementary income. Any attempts to disrupt the delicate balance is likely to have huge impact both on the village economy as well as the future GDP growth of India.”
According to another report published by Financial Express, “India has some 300 million cattle, and animals foraging for food are a familiar sight on the rubbish-strewn streets of towns and villages. Their numbers could swell by 200,000 in Maharashtra alone as farmers abandon animals they can’t sell, according to the beef trade.”
The report titled ‘Beef bans in India hit Indian farmers, and traders’ analyzes that “Several thousand people will be rendered jobless in the beef trade and related industries like leather goods, leaders of the business community say.
The supply of hides to tanneries across India would also be hit, pushing up prices. Tanneries buy and process animal hides and sell leather to makers of shoes, handbags and accessories.”
In India there are innumerable cultural, social, religious and lifestyle differences. Numerous food habits are found across India. A large population here consumes meat and meat products of some variety, including beef, mutton, poultry and so on. There are a number of tribal groups who consume many types of meat from forest and desert-based animals such as rabbits, rodents, frogs, snakes and other minor animals. A democratically elected government is not allowed to dictate food habits of people. Similarly, it cannot go against the Constitution by curbing dietary freedoms of people. A criminal silence has been prevailing despite rising incidences of ideological intolerance. And a far more criminal negligence is seen on the part of the government and its law-enforcers, the police, towards the democratically protesting voices against the atmosphere which is increasingly turning out more and more poisoned and suffocating. This has to change.
The beef facts of India:
- Beef would be a popular foodin Vedic era
- Also Hindus consume bovine meat
- Beef eating Hindus non-minorities are counted as Hindus in census
- India is now the largest importer of beef
- The owners of four big meat exporting companies— Al-Kabeer Exports Pvt. Ltd., M.K.R Frozen Food Exports Pvt. Ltd., P.M.L Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Arabian Exports Pvt.Ltd. are Hindus.
- India is fifth in the world in beef production
- India is seventh in domestic consumption of beef
- In April-November 2014 registered a 16.7 % increase in bovine meat export income
- All Indian beef exports are labelled ‘buffalo meat’ since the export of cow meat is banned in India
- Beef can solve malnourishment problem of India as it is a cheap source of protein and fat
- Beef is a useful political tool
Problems ensuing from beef ban:
- Escalated unemployment
- Inflation; increased meat price
- Overpopulation; cows everywhere
- Overgrazing; end of greenery
- Increased production of greenhouse gasses
- Negative environmental impact
- Fear of cows and its progeny and buffalos being extinct
- Higher methane production
- Burden on farmers to bury or cremate animals
- Deceases due to improper disposal of deceased animals
- Less care to barren or economically unprofitable animals
(With thanks to Abusaleh Shariff, the economist working for US-India Policy Institute)
Legislation by State or UT Regarding Cattle Slaughter
|S.N.||States/UT||Legal for Slaughter||S.N.||States/UT||Legal for Slaughter|
|3||J & K||None||4||Punjab||None|
|1||Kerala||All cattle||2||Manipur||All cattle|
|3||Mizoram||All cattle||4||Meghalaya||All cattle|
|5||Nagaland||All cattle||6||Sikkim||All cattle|
|7||Tripura||All cattle||8||Arunachal Pradesh||All cattle|
|1||Andhra Pradesh||Bulls and bullocks on obtaining “fit-for-slaughter” certificate, to be given only if the animal is not economical or is not likely to become economical for the purpose of breeding or draught/agricultural operations||2||Puducherry||Bulls and bullocks is permitted, on obtaining a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate, provided that the cattle is over age of 15 years or has become permanently unfit for breeding or draught|
|3||Assam||All cattle on obtaining a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate, to be given if cattle is over 14 years of age or has become permanently incapacitated for work or breeding due to injury, deformity or any incurable disease||4||Bihar||Bulls or bullocks of over 15 years of age or has become permanently incapacitated for work or breeding due to injury, deformity or any incurable disease is permitted|
|5||Daman and Diu||Cow (includes cow, heifer or calf), only if the animal is suffering pain or contagious disease or for medical research||6||Madhya Pradesh||Bulls and bullocks, provided the cattle is over 15 years or has become unfit for work or breeding|
|7||Goa||Cow, only if the animal is suffering pain or contagious disease or for medical researchBulls, bullocks, male calves and buffaloes of all ages on obtaining a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate, which is not given if the animal is likely to become economical for draught, breeding or milk (in the case of she-buffaloes) purposes||8||Tamil Nadu||All cattle (except cows including heifers) on obtaining “fit-for-slaughter” certificate, issued if an animal was over 10 years of age and was unfit for work and breeding or had become permanently incapacitated for work and breeding due to injury deformity or any incurable disease|
|9||Karnataka||Bulls, bullocks and adult buffaloes is permitted on obtaining a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate provided cattle is over 12 years of age or is permanently incapacitated for breeding, draught or milk due to injury, deformity or any other cause||10||Odisha||Bulls and bullocks, on obtaining a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate, provided that the cattle is over 14 years of age or has become permanently unfit for breeding or draught|
|11||Gujarat||Buffaloes on certain conditions||12||Delhi||Buffalo|
|13||West Bengal||All cattle on obtaining a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate, only issued if the animal is over 14 years of age and unfit for work or breeding or has become permanently incapacitated for work and breeding due to age, injury, deformity, or any incurable disease||14||Telengana||Bulls and bullocks on obtaining “fit-for-slaughter” certificate, to be given only if the animal is not economical or is not likely to become economical for the purpose of breeding or draught/agricultural operations|
|15||Uttar Pradesh||Bull or bullock on obtaining a “fit-for-slaughter” certificate provided it was over the age of 15 years or had become permanently unfit for breeding, draught and any agricultural operations. However, the Government of Uttar Pradeshissued an ordinance in 2001, prohibiting the slaughter of cow and its progeny.|
|Country-wise Beef Exports(in,000 tonnes*)
|* Cases weight equivalent Source: US Department of Agriculture|
‘A total ban [on cattle slaughter] was not permissible if, under economic conditions, keeping useless bull or bullock be a burden on the society and therefore not in the public interest.’ The Supreme Court of India