“It is a perverse violation of democratic norms to spray-paint a legitimately approved legislation with communal colours. Beef-eating Indians rose as one to damn the government’s move as autocratic. Some even went to the extent of terming the ban as anti-poor and anti-Dalit. The most surprising comment came from Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Tushar Gandhi, in the form of the tweet ‘beef ban in Maharashtra is anti-Dalit, Christians and Muslims.'” – Prabhu Chawla
Religious discrimination is the latest buffet of our cuisine commandos, who have a beef with majority sensibilities. This has led to delirious debates on the sanctity of secularism. The malady of their imagination interprets any law they deem to be a threat to minority culture as a threat to freedom of faith and caste apartheid. As the Communalism vs Secularism debate reaches idiosyncratic heights, the vertigo over the choice of meat to be eaten in India is spinning out of control. Any restriction of an individual’s gastronomic preferences is perceived by Westernised cosmopolitan secularists as an attempt to curb freedom of food. The recent ban on cow slaughter by the Maharashtra government has outraged the secular sympathies of those who consider the colour of cuisine dearer than the sentiments of the majority. They miss the point that the law was passed by a government that was voted in by the people of the state. They choose to ignore that banning cow slaughter was part of its manifesto, which was decisively endorsed by Maharashtra’s voters. True, the prohibition could be debated and those who have lost the freedom to trade on the religious sentiments of 80 per cent of the population can raise their objections. It’s a free for all society after all.
The maturity of Indian democracy is revealed by the fact that the food habits of a minuscule but outspoken minority have been allowed to influence legislative processes. The BJP has never concealed its resolve to ban cow slaughter if voted to power. Most states under its rule have already prohibited it, and a few others like Haryana have started the process. The for the past five decades. In the 1960s, a massive march towards Parliament House by members of the Jan Sangh and other Hindu organisations to protest cow slaughter ended with over a dozen people falling to police bullets.
It is a perverse violation of democratic norms to spray-paint a legitimately approved legislation with communal colours. Beef-eating Indians rose as one to damn the government’s move as autocratic. Some even went to the extent of terming the ban as anti-poor and anti-Dalit. The most surprising comment came from Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Tushar Gandhi, in the form of the tweet “beef ban in Maharashtra is anti-Dalit, Christians and Muslims”. Self-appointed secularists attacking the government on the social media started following his tirade. All of them, including Tushar, forgot what the Mahatma felt about cow slaughter when he wrote, “My religion teaches me that I should, by personal conduct, instil into the minds of those who might hold different views, the conviction that cow-killing is a sin and that, therefore, it ought to be abandoned.”
It took the state almost two decades to get the Centre’s approval for the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, which took 19 years to become a law. It was passed by BJP-Shiv Sena government in January 1996. It is surprising that an NDA government that ruled India for six years couldn’t clear the legislation due to coalition compulsions. The prohibition of cow slaughter is a Directive Principle of State Policy contained in Article 48 of the Constitution. It reads, “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”
One may disagree with many decisions taken by the Modi Sarkar—economic and otherwise. But Modi has never concealed his preference for a total ban on cow slaughter during his Lok Sabha election campaign last year. It was one of his major weapons against the UPA government. Launching an attack against those who supported the killing of bovines in 2012, Modi wrote in his blog, “It saddens me that the present UPA government led by Congress is promoting the slaughter of cows and export of beef to bring ‘Pink Revolution’. Gujarat is the only state to enact a law that bans it. The UPA seems unbothered about our rich ethos and culture. It wants to make India the biggest exporter of beef.” Modi wasn’t far off the mark. India is the second largest exporter of beef in the world. According to official forecasts, Indian beef exports are likely to hit close to two million tonnes in 2015—second only to Brazil. The value of India’s red meat exports has nearly doubled from $1.9 billion in 2011 to $3.2 billion in 2013, according to the government’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority. That’s about 1 per cent of India’s $300 billion annual exports in the last financial year. BJP leaders feel that some Western and Middle-Eastern countries have been encouraging Indian beef exporters. Many nations have banned the slaughter of numerous animals for different reasons. Ethical eating campaigns have prevented the sale of foie gras in the West. Jews abhor horse meat. Pork is banned in all Islamic countries. Recently Communist Cuba banned the sale of cow meat. But Castro’s ideological desi brethren are at the forefront of the protest against the beef ban. Ridiculously, pro-beef promoters are seeking a ban on pork now. To achieve it, our liberal gourmands will have to create a group of swine worshippers. Over a billion people worldwide worship the cow, but few consider a pig clean or lovable. The Gadarene swine never got the vote in the Bible.
Secular rhetoric argues that the ban is meant to consolidate the majority vote and ensure religious polarisation. Inarguably, the ban came about through democratic means. The writers of the Constitution didn’t think it appropriate to include the Right to Eat Anything (including cannibalism) as a fundamental right. They championed the right to freedom and happiness but not of the privilege of those who cannot survive a day without beef. Ironically, many Modi worshippers and votaries have joined his adversaries because the ban has adversely affected their wine-paired palates. It is dismal that a Swine and not Swaraj is dominating the discourse among the beef-eating elitist minority of India. – The Sunday Express, 15 March 2015
» Prabhu Chawla is the Editorial Director of The New Indian Express. Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla