The 2014 Lok Sabha elections were unprecedented and historic in many respects – firstly, the Indian Congress Party which ruled the country for about six decades emerged with the poorest ever results whereas, after a long period India got the one-party Government at the centre headed by Mr Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. The BJP, with absolute majority, formed the government.
During the elections, Narendra Modi criticized the Congress government for its ‘Pink Revolution’ with reference to animals-slaughter in its regime. The pink color of the animal-meat apparently imparted to Mr Modi’s sarcastic attack on the Congress. His allegations against the then central government comprised, besides other things, also the subsidies to the slaughter houses, but not to those who raise the animals. The BJP’s election-manifesto declared that, if came to power, would ban completely the consumption of beef in the country.
Early this year, BJP-led Maharastra government banned the slaughter not only of cows, but also of calves and bullocks in view of the Hindus’ religious sentiments. The cows are considered sacred in Hinduism. This apart, the Hindus rely heavily on cows for economic benefits from the dairy products. Besides the cow-milk which sustain the cow- owners in various ways like any other source of business. Even the cow- dung is a source of fuel and fertilizer in agrarian economy of rural India. Cows are treated as the surrogate mothers for the families who own cows.
What is more, the cows symbolize grace, abundance and dignity. The importance of a cow for the Hindus may be felt in what a RSS spokesperson’s statement that killing or smuggling of a cow is tantamount to raping a Hindu girl or destroying a Hindu temple. Hence, beef is considered as the biggest taboo in most of the Hindu communities particularly the Brahminical society.
In other religions such as Islam and Christianity, cows are not treated with so much reverence as in the Hinduism. Muslims, Christians and Dalits mostly rely on cows for its meat which is much cheaper than mutton and chicken. Hence, in a multi-cultural country like India, its inhabitants’ food habits vary a lot.
In the 16-month old Mr. Modi’s government, as the opposition parties have been making allegations, the policies are guided by the RSS. RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), a Hindu organization which was formed in 1925 to unite the Hindu community. Several protests were held against this organization for its extremist views and activities. It was once banned during the British regime in India and also three times in the Independent India.
Since BJP has been associated with the Hindu organization RSS, Mr Modi was politically accused for Gujarat’s deadly riot of 2002 which claimed thousands of lives. Today more allegations are made against his government’s every step and when the International Yoga day was celebrated in India, it too was linked to BJP’s policy to promote Hinduism.
When BJP came to power in Maharsthra last October, it further amended the 1972 law prohibiting the slaughter of cows, and included also bulls, bullocks and calves. Under the said Act, anyone found breaking the law will face a fine and imprisonment up to five years.
The amendment in the said act affected the common people with regard to his food habits. How can a political party that aspires to rule a multicultural country expect the people to change their food-habits? What the people like to eat, is a part of our cultural practice which cannot be changed by even the judiciary. A political party or government cannot suspend food rights of people simply because the leadership of a ruling party does not like the taste of a particular food, or because it considers some animals sacred.
India, with 300 million cattle, is the world’s largest beef exporter and fifth largest beef consumer. India’s beef export $4bn a year is now its economy’s top agricultural export, surpassing the world famous India’s basmati rice. Indian water buffalos are not considered holy and hence they are used legally as major source of meat. Buffalo meat accounts for 80% of the exports. With the beef ban, the beef traders are being harassed by the right wing Hindus, their animals are being seized, and the drivers being beaten. The beef ban even cost thousands of jobs of lower income population.
Because of a new rigidity in the beef ban, many Hindu households are also the sufferers. Usually the Hindus sell their unproductive and old cows but now because of the amendment, the cattle became liability as cattle have to be fed for the rest of their lives.
The resentment against the Mr. Modi’s government took a new shape when India’s top writers and artists began to return their awards in protest of the prevailing situation in the country. The growing intolerance among the people in the country under the leadership of Narendra Modi, is a matter of great concern. So far, 41 writers have returned their awards including the most prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award. This protest was also joined by artists, filmmakers, historians and scientists. It is said that they are protesting for the increasing communalism and violence against the minorities as occurred in Dadri, UP.
The Lok Sabha elections ended but the controversy continues and also the repercussions and bitterness, the political gimmick like the beef-ban clicked the party, but failed the democracy as usual. Because an election- battle can be won with political- gimmicks but the war of democracy can’t be won. One doctrine or policy can never be efficacious in a country like India, where diversity and unity go together, where 16 languages are spoken and where world’s all religions flourish.
Akshay Kirti is studying economics at Patna University, India. He is an editor, debater and writer. He has studied International Political Economy at King’s College London Delhi Summer School. He has a keen interest in political economy and is involved with many NGOs such as Green Saver and Welfare and Student’s Oxygen Movement.
Featured image courtesy of Leszek Leszczynski.