Thursday, March 5, 2015

What's the Beef about?

Recently, social media and some parts of traditional media have been talking about the Maharashtra Government's new law to ban the slaughter of buffaloes in the state (cow slaughter was already banned), effectively ending the entire beef industry in the state, or pushing it underground. Comments have ranged from the very ecstatic on the far right to the absolutely outraged on the far left, with the latter making most of the noise.

Let's examine the issues here. Article 48 of the Constitution of India states that the state shall aim to end the slaughter of cows and other milch animals in the Union. This is of course a minor irritant for the leftists who otherwise express deep love for constitutional principles, and they prefer to ignore it. Unfortunately for them, the Constitution is written to be followed in full, not on those lines that suit them (the Uniform Civil Code is another aspect of this). A fair question is that, since the Directive Principle is only on cows and milch animals, can buffalo slaughter be banned as well? Answering that question requires going in to the reason behind the Article in the first place.

The sad reality of India today is that there is a very small, micro-minority that is physically in India but mentally somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. It is them that is speaking the loudest against this move. India is overwhelmingly Hindu, that is a fact. The principles and practices that the Persian invaders and then the British colonialists collectively called Hinduism are varied, but a central tenet is most groups that follow it is worshiping cows. The reason is quite simple: cows as well as buffaloes were important for the society under which those practices were established: they were farm animals that helped till the land, they were milch animals that provided milk, their dung was used for everything from fuel to wall finishing.  No other animal could compare to this level of utility and hence, for society, killing cows and buffaloes (both) was unthinkable simply because it would be like shooting themselves in the foot. It is these traditional practices from where what we call Hinduism today (which is really a Persian word) came.

It is also for this reason that the groups in India that would most support the ban are those that have owned land. Obviously, Dalits eat beef, because they never owned land until the abolition of the caste system in the very young Republic. But even this is not the general case: Dalits who depended on their landed masters for their meals would not be able to get any beef either, and that is where the practice originates from. It is not a religious diktat - Hinduism does not have an equivalent of the ten commandments - but a cultural practice.

India is a secular country, which means the state shall not favor any religion. But no state can exorcise a society of its culture - the Communists in Russia once tried and they had to establish death camps and forced labor for that, and they still couldn't do it fully; the Nazis tried but had to make peace with the Church to avoid a massive rebellion in their own ranks. India's cultural roots are common to all people irrespective of religion, and indeed to all people of what is called South Asia now. However much Leftists and those in Pakistan might try to play up the two-nation theory and show that Muslims in India are fundamentally incompatible with Hindu culture, they will always fail because a 60-year old idea cannot defeat a 5000-year old continuing civilization. They are simply wrong.

The people who are shouting out against the beef ban are those who would themselves not talking about eating beef openly in society, if they even do it in the first place. A vast majority of states in the Union ban it, including Muslim majority J&K, but it is only the Maharashtra Government's ban that is inviting criticism. Why? Because it is not about beef - it is about Narendra Modi and the fact that it is impossible for Leftists to accept the fact that he won a landslide election. The people who gloated that the BJP was an upper caste, North Indian party that could never win more than 180 seats in the Lok Sabha are those who cannot believe that it won a majority of its own and is now a pan-India party and are determined to use every opportunity to undermine him, aided by a sold-out media that wants its special privileges restored. This is a political issue, have no doubt about it. And it will meet a political response when the time comes. 

No comments: