“The ‘pink revolution’ issue was not in the political realm till Narendra Modi decided to harp on it in speech after speech with sledgehammer effect. But all that has happened since he won is that India has knocked off Brazil from the number one position to emerge as the world’s largest beef exporter. That lament about the subsidies to katalkhanas during the campaign was not followed up with any policy review. Instead, encouragement was offered by lowering of excise duties. Commerce minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, actually gloated over the growing exports by calling a press conference.” – Sushil Pandit
It isn’t that the instances of outrage are getting rare these days. Yet, each successive instance seems to be more potent than the previous in throwing all and sundry opinion makers suddenly into the vortex of a nationwide debate. In a country where corpses rot away for want of attention, all it took were a couple of killings. In Bisada, first, a stray calf went missing after Eid. This calf, for several preceding months, was fondly fed by the villagers. A bunch of village boys suspected a Muslim family to have slaughtered it. A summary verification confirmed their doubt. It led, on the spur, to an assault on the men in the family in which a 50-year-old succumbed and his 20-year-old son was grievously injured and is struggling to stay alive in a hospital.
The media outrage it has caused covers an entire spectrum—from a thinly disguised worked up angst to being downright bizarre. Many rent-a-cause divas have begun to order the whosoever-it-may-concern chefs, from their Facebook accounts and Twitter handles, their steak preferences for dinner. A minister who, not too long ago, despatched a police battalion to hunt for his missing buffaloes, wants to petition the UN on the precarious plight of the Muslims in India. There was a rather tentative “other side” to this debate that has been browbeaten into a retreat. The vacuum is sought to be grabbed by some clumsy and coarse votaries of Hindutva, who are also the favourite whipping boys of the left-liberal cabal. Needless to say, it suits both. The real danger, though, is that this missing and underserved “other side” of the argument, in the increasingly one-sided debates that dominate our mediascape, if not given its legitimate due, is likely to extract a disproportionate price, sooner than the most chatting cognoscenti think. This unrepresented side has, for a very long time, held its silence with patience. And, even at the risk of being mistakenly seen as defending the indefensible, one cannot but try to strike a balance.
Let me state the obvious to start with as I am not too sure if we all remember this. It is customary in many Hindu homes to spare the first roti for the cow’s progeny, and the last one for the dog, (just in case we forget the dogs). The cow’s share is out of reverence. Perhaps the dog’s too is. Though the dog’s could also be out of concern for the friendly guard that watches over the street, or just a “transaction” with the “planets” to seek deliverance, or even mere compassion for the fellow living being. In fact, in my neighbourhood, there is someone who drives up in a car with buckets of milk-soaked bread, to serve the food in several aluminium dog plates he brings along, to the dozens of stray canine that have become a menace for strangers. There are people who pick up fights every day, even move courts, when they see “their” dogs being harmed in any manner. I also often see on my morning walks, people carrying, in small packets, grain to feed the birds or flour to feed the ants. I recall this to underscore the fact that, “we the people”, even in the largely deracinated metropolitan towns and their cosmopolitan suburbia, routinely witness and experience common people caring for birds and animals out of faith or compassion, if not both. Not all of them may be vegetarians and, therefore, you could mock at their “hypocrisy” but that is how it is. In the rural hinterland, the people, despite the ubiquitous smartphones, are still far more rooted.
And, if you are wondering what smartphones have got to do with it, let me give you the context, besides the obvious. On September 8, the Jammu bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court ordered the police to enforce a long-existing law banning cow slaughter that was often violated with impunity. This led to the jihadi-separatists openly calling for public slaughter of cows in defiance. They followed it up with gory videos of flailing and writhing cows, pinned down and being slaughtered, jamming up the storage-space on mobile phones across the country. I couldn’t bear to watch one such “clip”. I wonder what outrage it must have caused to countless others. But, there was no outpouring against this outrage. It just wasn’t fashionable enough for the rock star anchors or the newsroom chatterrati.
Nobody addressed the “pink revolution” campaign-jibe of the 2014 polls either. This issue was not in the political realm till Narendra Modi decided to harp on it in speech after speech with sledgehammer effect. But all that has happened since he won is that India has knocked off Brazil from the number one position to emerge as the world’s largest beef exporter. That lament about the subsidies to katalkhanas [abattoirs] during the campaign was not followed up with any policy review. Instead, encouragement was offered by lowering of excise duties. Commerce minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, actually gloated over the growing exports by calling a press conference. It is entirely another matter that on being allotted a bungalow on becoming minister, she organised a big puja and had a cow towed into her house, to be taken from room-to-room, for good omen.
How can you raise expectations on such an emotive issue and do nothing about it? Forget doing something, you have actually acted contrary to what you had promised. The villages in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have mounted citizens’ vigil in the face of government apathy. It has even led to vigilantism in several cases. And then, what you get to see is all those gut-wrenching slaughter videos, aimed to provoke. For it to not explode into a calamity of the Bisada kind was an exaggerated expectation.
What has happened after the calamity too is no less perverse. Often, very reasonable people seem to suggest that any concession on letting you eat a pig entitles them to eat a cow. The pig isn’t held sacred in Islam or Judaism. It is just not kosher, or halal. So, if you think it is not edible, good for you. Do not eat it. But your faith is not about protecting, conserving or worshipping pigs. The cow, on the other hand, is sacred to Hindus. It isn’t as if you don’t know that such a comparison is dishonest. Yet, in search of a moral equivalence, this argument is routinely deployed.
Why do pet lovers turn squeamish on the issue of dog meat and seek a ban? Do people in Mumbai and Delhi have the right to eat dogs? Why isn’t anybody’s freedom to choose one’s food restrained by a ban on killing our national bird peacock or Bishnoi conserved black bucks? Why isn’t somebody’s right to aphrodisiacs violated by a ban on rhinoceros, bear and tiger poaching? Why are some bans enforced with all the celebrities lining up and sponsored events, while other bans made an example of, in violation? Why must the state abdicate its responsibility enshrined in the directive principles that are part of the Constitution and look the other way? Is it just because barbecues, roasts and lean cuts elevate some of you to the status of colonial sahibs, the pleasures of which the village bumpkins, who rear those cows, have no right to come in the way of, because they are unwashed, unlettered and ignorant and do not know how to glamourise their cause with slut parades? – Daily-O, 6 November 2015
» Sushil Pandit is an exiled Kashmiri Hindu, communication strategist, and activist.
- BJP got Rs 2.50 crore in donations from firms exporting buffalo meat – Himanshi Dhawan
- Subramanian Swamy urges Narendra Modi to abolish subsidies for meat exporters – PTI
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