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Backdoor Ban

Backdoor Ban

A cat laps up milk with its eyes closed to ensure it doesn’t get into its eyes. However, a saying to describe surreptitious nature goes, “The cat thinks no one sees it drinks milk with its eyes closed.” The Government of India is the cat here. It has notified rules apparently to prevent cruelty to animals, but the idea is to make cattle unavailable for slaughter as the RSS wants to end cow slaughter.

If the rules to disallow buying or selling of cattle for slaughter in a cattle market is to end cruelty to animals, what makes the government overlook cruelty to other animals? To give an easy example, one regularly sees trucks on highways carrying half dead chicken in crunched cages.

Activists propped up by the government had approached the Supreme Court as part of a well-thought out strategy of the Hindutva lobby who could not stop slaughter of cows transported from states that have anti-cow slaughter legislation to the northeast and Kerala, where there is no slaughter ban. Literally a parting shot from Environment Minister Anil Dave who died recently, the rules to end cruelty to animals is an excuse to impose cow slaughter through the backdoor.

But what makes the Government to presume that the markets were founded for buying and selling only healthy animals for husbandry? It is not the Union or state governments that created animal markets. They evolved over time, as part of the barter system, although regulating them is governments’ duty.

If the idea is to prevent cruelty to animals and the government does not have anything against slaughter of animals in states where it is not banned, why not put in place an elaborate mechanism to monitor animal cruelty?

The Government has failed to convince the public that this is not a backdoor Central legislation to introduce a ban on cow slaughter in states that have refused to implement such a law. These states have not considered such a law because of the dietary concerns of their populace.

Though some journalists are trying to do a cover-up for the Government, the BJP and the RSS offshoots are upfront about the intentions of their dispensation. They have been vocally protesting against the slaughter of cows for several decades. The Directive Principles of State Policy says that cow slaughter should be banned throughout India. That demonstrates the clout pro-Hindutva elements commanded even in the Constituent Assembly dominated by towering personalities with scientific temperament. Directive Principles of State Policy are not binding, only guidelines, but it was a compromise found after the Constituent Assembly withstood the pressure of Hindu and Hindutva groups who demanded a national law to ban consumption of beef.

After pro-Hindutva elements propagated the worship of cows as a fundamental part of Hinduism, Mahatma Gandhi elaborately wrote about what he felt on the issue. Since he believed in ahimsa, it did not run contrary to his beliefs but he made it clear that if Muslims were to slaughter a cow for dietary purpose, he would not try to stop them. Gandhi emphasised on the voluntary nature of carrying out such things.

“In India no law can be made to ban cow-slaughter. I do not doubt that Hindus are forbidden slaughter of cows. I have been long pledged to serve the cow but how can my religion also be the religion of the rest of the Indians? It will mean coercion against those Indians who are not Hindus,” Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Prarthana Pravachan.

His thoughts penned post-Partition, emphasised on persuasion: “How can I force anyone not to slaughter cows unless he is himself so disposed? It is not as if there were only Hindus in the Indian Union. There are Muslims, Parsis, Christians and other religious groups here.”

He warned about the political implications of demanding such a ban on the presumption that India belonged to Hindus: “The assumption of Hindus that India now has become the land of the Hindus is erroneous. India belongs to all who live here…Supposing Hindus were not allowed to visit temples because it was against Sharia law to worship idols? If therefore I am stopped from visiting temples I would still visit them. I shall therefore suggest that these telegrams and letters (thousands sent to the Government of India, accompanied by fasting by the likes of Vinoba Bhave) should cease. It is not proper to waste money on them.

Mahatma Gandhi also took a dig at hypocrites: “We really do not stop to think what true religion is and merely go about shouting that cow-slaughter should be banned by law…Who sends all the cows to Australia and other countries where they are slaughtered and where shoes manufactured from cow hide are sent back to India? I know an orthodox Vaishnava Hindu who used to give his children beef soup who on my query said that consuming beef as medicine was not a sin.”

And to the predecessors of today’s animal rights activists he had this to say: “In villages Hindus make bullocks carry huge burden that almost crush the animals. Is that not cow-slaughter carried out slowly?”

Gandhiji knew well that the cow was a mere instrument in the hands of those who wanted to polarise people on religious lines. Yet, an office-bearer of the Youth Congress in Kerala today did not show even an iota of that foresight when he decided to slaughter a calf in public. His party may not benefit or lose out in the state but the Congress, already facing the onslaught of Narendra Modi elsewhere in the country, may have to pay for the indiscretion of its Kannur protest.

Those who may presume that religious fundamentalism is a modern day menace may be surprised to know what Gandhiji had to say days before he was assassinated: “Today, all religions of India are being put to the test. It has to be seen how various religious groups conduct themselves and how they carry on the affairs of India.”

Almost despairing that he had failed, he passionately pleaded to conquer by love. “Even now if we can really become brave and love the Muslims, the Muslims will have to stop and think what they could gain by practising treachery against us. They will return love for love…If we answer sword with sword… we shall lose our freedom as easily as we have gained it.”

It is no coincidence that Gandhiji was murdered by those who held regressive ideas about India. And it is no surprise that those who continue to hold regressive ideas are trying to stamp out his spirit from India today.

( abey.kay@timesgroup.com)

#(Published on 05th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 23)