October 25, 2015

In the Name of the Cow

DADRI was not just an aberration or an isolated incident. Following the killing of Mohd Akhlaq by a mob in a village in Dadri on the false accusation of eating beef, there have been a spate of similar attacks using cow slaughter as the pretext. The death of 20 year old Noman after a truck carrying cattle was attacked in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh was followed by an arson attack in Udhampur on a truck carrying coal from Kashmir valley. Twenty three year old Zahid Ahmed died of burns sustained in this attack which was based on a malicious rumour about the killing of two cows. Apart from these murders, in Mainpuri, two Muslims were badly injured after being beaten by a mob accusing them of killing a cow. It transpired that they had been given a dead cow for skinning. Later in Bahraich district, a young Muslim boy, Afsar, was injured when he was set upon by a group of people. His crime was he was found in possession of a hide of an ox which he had procured for repairing a drum. Afsar and his cousin have been sent to jail under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, while those who assaulted him have not been arrested. These are not instances of just intolerance, they are a product of a sustained campaign against cow slaughter targeting the Muslim community. In each of the incidents cited above, it is Muslims who were killed or injured. This is a result of the RSS sponsored campaign which has been going on for years. The sprouting of various “gau raksha” committees and organisations are a manifestation of this hate campaign. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad in its Golden Jubilee last year announced a countrywide campaign which included the anti-cow slaughter issue. The anti-cow slaughter campaign is part of the communal ideology constructed to depict the Muslims as the enemy of Hindus and their religious beliefs. What was said in the Panchajanya article that the vedas sanction the killing of anyone responsible for cow slaughter is the ideological rationale of the RSS. When the Haryana chief minister, Manoharlal Khattar publicly stated that Muslims can remain in the country provided they do not eat beef, it illustrates the Hindutva viewpoint that Muslims cannot be treated as equal citizens. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself talked of the “pink revolution” during the election campaign and decried the export of meat products deliberately confusing buffalo meat for beef. With the advent of the Modi regime, throughout the country the RSS and its tentacular organisations are engaged in reshaping and communalising the society. That its communal project has been sustained and deep rooted is evident in the manner in which the police, the administration and even the judiciary is responding to the issue. In Mainpuri, the Muslims who skinned a dead cow have been arrested on charges of incitement of communal passions. Similarly, in Himachal Pradesh, while the men accompanying Noman were arrested, the attackers have not been apprehended. The High Court of Himachal Pradesh has even gone to the extent of asking the central government to consider enacting a law prohibiting slaughter of cows and selling of beef or beef products at the national level within a period of three months. What is most dangerous is the failure of the State to defend the rights of citizens and to treat them equally when faced with such deliberate attacks on the Muslim minority. Behind these attacks is a calculated effort to disrupt the livelihood of tens of thousands of Muslims who have traditionally engaged in cattle-trading and the leather trade. Dalits who are employed in the skinning of cattle and leather–making will be the next sufferers. The hypocrisy of the RSS and the BJP on the issue of cow slaughter is obvious. While using this as a weapon against the Muslims, they are not worried about the plight of the farmers and the growing number of stray cattle. It has been estimated that there are 53 lakh stray cattle including cows, buffaloes and bulls according to the Cattle Census of 2012. By banning slaughter of non-milching cows in BJP ruled states, the farmers are now faced with the prospect of losing whatever income they could get by selling off such cattle and they are forced to abandon the cattle which face starvation. The votaries of the cow are not concerned in the least as it would cost Rs 20,000 crore a year at Rs 100 per day per head to feed this huge amount of stray cattle. There can be no blanket ban at the national level on the slaughter of cows and other forms of cattle. There has to be an effective campaign to counter the communal poison mongers who are using the cow to instill hatred against the minorities. The real, pressing problems of the people, such as the astronomical price of dal, the agrarian distress and the shrinking job opportunities are sought to be diverted by the disruptive Hindutva agenda. The people must be rallied to halt these disruptive activities and to focus on their real life problems. (October 21, 2015)