Is beef eating an anti-Hindu psyche ?

October 31, 2015

[This pamphlet was issued by Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (IIT-M) on the occasion of a public talk by Anand Teltumbde, on Oct 30, organised by the group. – Ed]

“You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.” [The Complete Works of Vivekananda’, vol. 3, p. 536.]

The easiest mode of rerouting people’s attention from their livelihood problem is kindling customary practice into a controversy by arousing peoples’ emotions. Particularly right wing political and so called cultural organizations are very well versed with these kinds of practices. Naïve hindus have been fused into saffronized clusters in many cases in the recent past such as Babri Masjid riot, Hashimpura and Maliana massacre, Gujarath massacre, Bomb blasts in Malegaon, death sentence to Afzal guru and Yakub Memon, Muzaffarnagar riots and Ghar wapsi. Yes! Even now they seem to have conquered the psyche of innocent hindus in the name of the ‘holy cow’. The ban on beef basically criminalizes food habits of common people or forces vegetarianism upon so many; in reality after Babri masjid demolition, it’s become the unrivalled resourceful instrument for hindutva zealots to mobilize people on a so called hindu platform. There is a promising probability in “holy cow” tool, which might easily emotionally appeal to many hindus. Even hard evidence – even from the Vedas and Shastras revealing the practice of eating bovine meat is not heeded by so called hindu outfits claiming to be the custodians of the hindu religion.

It is evident from the works of B.R.Ambedkar, D.D.Kosambi and D.N. Jha that beef eating prevailed among the Brahmins and it was a custom to sacrifice cattle into the ritual fire, the best meat of which was later eaten by the Brahmins. For about 1500 years before the birth of Christianity and Islam, the Hindu Brahmins too fed on animal meat ranging from cow to pig; even horses did not escape their appetite. According to Ambedkar, the insatiable appetite of Brahmins for cattle was one of the major reasons for people then to convert to Buddhism and Jainism that preached vegetarianism. It is a well known fact that, brahmins actually renounced their beef eating habit, in order to win over these religions. This is not only argued by researchers, even the late maha sankaracharya from Tamilnadu has written articles on the inclusion and consumption of beef in the rituals and justified them in the name of shastras.

Right after capturing power in the centre, the BJP ruled states dare to bring anti-people laws in the name of national sentiment. Under the pretext of stopping cow slaughter, killing a cow will lead 5 years jail in Maharashtra, 7 years in Madhya Pradesh and upto 10 years in Haryana. Right from the farmer who sells the barren cow, to the one who eats beef, everybody can be charged with cow slaughter based on this law in these states. The propaganda of the hindutva elements on holy how has created a cultural ban on beef, forcing the majority of the working class to renounce their cultural practice and source of protein.

Lynching Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri is not a lone incident happening against dalits, adivasis muslims and other minorities; rather it’s the only incident that came to light. Just before Dadri, Abdul Ghafoor, a 65 year old meat seller in Rajasthan was lynched by a hindutva mob. Abdur Rashid Sheikh an MLA in Jammu and Kashmir was assaulted openly in the Assembly by the BJP MLAs for hosting a party in the MLA hostel where beef was served. Dadri is a well planned execution by the sangh parivar’s hatred campaign. While the Dadri lynching struck at the conscience of people the BJP leadrs have not once unequivocally condemned the inhumanity of killing a person on the basis of a rumour. The Haryana chief minister reportedly said that ‘Muslims can live in this country but they have to give up eating beef because the cow is an article of faith here’. The Prime Minister spoke, asking Hindus and Muslims not to fight each other but to fight poverty. By this he has equated the perpetrator of the crime with the victim and declared it is a clash between Muslims and Hindus, suggesting that Muslims are inviting trouble by killing cows.

A vast number of Hindus eat beef, it is a source of livelihood for many Muslims. It is Muslims who play a vital role in the domestic trade of beef. This economic base of the Muslims is being targeted by spreading anti beef sentiments. At the same time the BJP ruled states have not banned the export of beef to other countries, because much of the beef export is controlled by Hindu businessmen. Gujarat is the biggest beef exporter in the country, whereas consumption of beef inside the state has long been banned. Also the consumption of beef inside star hotels in Gujarat is allowed saying that it is imported beef. Strikingly BJP MLA Sangeeth Som (one of the accused in Muzaffarnagar riots) who is in the forefront in the cow-slaughter controversy, has / has had a beef-exporting company in the name of ‘Al-Dua’.

The ban on beef by these states is actually brought under the pretext of saving cattle that is basic to agriculture. But farmers in these states differ with the version of the government. They say that it is practically impossible for them to spend Rs.200 to Rs.500 a day for maintaining barren cows. They would be able to buy a new cow only after selling their old one to the butchers. We need to take into account a similar argument by Verghese Kurien, the founder of Amul, that ban on cow slaughter would actually prevent the farming community from rotating barren cows with new ones thereby leading to the extinction of certain domestic breed of cows.

Although overall per capita consumption of meat in India is low, the well-known ‘People of India project’ has demonstrated that nearly 88 per cent of India’s communities count themselves among the meat-eaters where meat is the one of important source of protein for them. In this situation, banning beef across India – where more than 40 crore citizens are malnourished – would deprive people of a cheap source of protein. Do we want another version of the unimaginable horrors of the great Bengal famine ?

The same intolerence towards different food and cultural habits is reflected in the way rationalists like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi were assassinated – with impunity, in broad daylight, apparently with the confidence that nothing will happen to us under ‘our’ regime. Again, a recent article in the RSS mouth piece Panchajanya, states that according to Vedas it is alright to kill the ‘sinners’ who slaughter cows. The same mindset came to the fore last week on 21st October in Davanagere in central Karnataka, where a young dalit writer and journalist named Huchangi Prasad, was kidnapped, brutally attacked and showered with kumkum by hindutva fundamentalists. They even warned him not to write anti-hindu articles, and justified his birth as dalit because of his sins in previous janma.

Umpteen numbers of writers from different states surrendered their Sahithya Akademi and state awards in dissent against the assassination of rationalist writers and against the increasing saffronization of a diverse culture. (Tamilnadu is singled out in this issue where the so called writers and progressive writers who won Akademi awards offered nothing but silence, suggesting that Tamilnadu is no more a place for right and left wing; rather it is a place for right wing and opportunist wing.)

Long before Ayodhya and Ram politics, the “Holy Cow” was an important weapon used by the Hindutva thugs to instigate communal violence. Now the notorious “Holy Cow” has returned to the scene and is waiting to claim lives of thousands of innocent Muslims and Hindus. As a society we urgently need to speak about the danger this poses to the very fabric of this civilization – something much more dangerous than even the brutality of ‘enemies’.

Breaking the silence is the need of the hour – let’s break the silence!

Let us come together as students and question political mobilization in the name of religion, caste and language!

Let us unmask the hypocrisy of Hindutva outfits and sensitize ourselves to the real issues involved – those of livelihood and personal freedoms!