The Indian nation is in a real crisis. This crisis in a way was created by Mahatma Gandhi by constantly talking about cow protection during his anti-British campaigns. The anti-cow slaughter campaign of the Hindu Mahasabha and other organisations had started even during his time. This worried him, and prompted him to say: “The assumption of the Hindus that India now has become the land of the Hindus is erroneous. India belongs to all who live here. If we stop cow slaughter by law here and the very reverse happens in Pakistan, what will be the result? Supposing they say Hindus would not be allowed to visit temples because it was against Sharia to worship idols?”
But the damage had already been done. His cow protection campaign was based on his belief in Jain ethics and not in Vedic ethics. In fact, the anti-meat and non-violence campaign in India was started by Jain Thrithankara Vardhamana Mahaveera. The Jain belief in non-violence was also anti-agriculture. Tilling the land, making use of cattle power for tilling, for transport purposes not only involves animal suffering, but also results in killing of certain insects in the process. Thus, the Jain idea of non-violence is anti-production and development. Gautama Buddha opposed such a practice and propagated the Middle Path. He said violence as a creed is bad, violence as need is unavoidable. He was a meat, beef and pork eater.
The Sangh Parivar and the Bharatiya Janata Party, under influence of the Jains, are trying to promote violence against beef and meat eaters. The shocking incident in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, where a Muslim family was attacked by a murderous mob and the father of an Indian Air Force staffer lynched on the suspicion that they had some beef in their home is a case in point.
There was the controversy about meat and beef ban in Mumbai and Maharashtra. The courts had to interfere and stop a forced ban on people’s routine food on the plate. The attack on the food culture of people and the individual’s right to eat what is of his/her choice food is a direct attack on the democratic right of the Indian citizens. In fact, the Indian tribals (not Muslims or Christians) are the source of our food culture. It is they who taught us what we should eat and what we should not eat merely on the basis of experiments with varieties of meat, fruit, leaf and root foods. Beef and sheep, goat, deer and pig meat food was handed over to us by our ancestors from their tribal stage onwards. The history of India in terms of vegetable production is only a few centuries old. Indians lived on meats longer than they lived in mixed food culture of vegetarian and meaterian. The pure vegetarian life of even certain caste/communities like Brahmins, Baniyas is also not very old. Only Jains have a long history of non-meat eating culture.
The concept of purity and impurity around food is not universal. Defining purity and impurity around food that people eat is absolutely irrational. Unfortunately, the Indian sociology also advanced such irrational concepts.
Most irrational cultural ethic they evolved is that buffalo could be killed, even though it produces more than 70 per cent Indian milk, but not the cow. In Gujarat and Maharashtra, buffalo meat is available everywhere. The Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) value of buffalo milk is 2.74 and that of cow milk is 2.49. It is said that buffalo milk has about 11.42 per cent higher protein than cow milk.
The BJP government by not stopping such brutalities and murderous things, rather promoting them, is going to harm the very edifice of Indian democracy.
– The author is Director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. Views expressed are personal.