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India, Hinduism & Cow…

Once, a protégé was travelling with his mentor. They arrived in a country where people used to pay the exact same price for everything. The ‘overwhelmed’ protégé decided to stay in that country, although the mentor had no such plan. Before leaving the country, he told his protégé that it could be horrible to live in a country where you have to pay the same price for anything.

It is easier to leave a country in a story. But, it isn’t possible in the modern world. Therefore, it becomes important to raise voice in a country, where animals (read cow) become more valuable than its people. It is a fact that the sentence for killing a cow is five, seven or 14 years in different Indian provinces, but the sentence for causing the death of a human being through rash or negligent driving is only two years.

Followers of Hinduism have always considered different animals as avatar – a manifestation of a deity or an icon or figure representing a particular god. In Hinduism, tortoise, boar and fish have been described as different manifestations of Lord Vishnu. With the number of turtles decreasing fast globally, the international community has decided to avoid their meats and to protect the biodiversity. Swine is an abusive word, but cheesy pork recipe is considered as an ideal supper dish in different parts of the globe. People in various countries also enjoy beef and mutton, although cow and goat are widely considered as weaker animals.

Perhaps, some followers of Hinduism, who glorify the gomutra (urine of a cow) as panacea and advise others to take it at least once a day, are not aware of Swami Vivekananda’s views on cow slaughter and beef-eating.

In his publication Swami Sishya Sangbad (Mentor Protégé News), Vivekananda’s protégé Sharachchandra Chakraborty wrote: “Once, a man approached Swamiji about saving cows when thousands of people were dying from draught in one of the Muslim majority states in India. He was confident that the Hindu monk would ask his followers to sacrifice their lives to protect cows. Instead, Swamiji asked the person what they were doing for the poor helpless people. The man answered that their aim was to protect cows, and not the people. Swamiji refused to help that man and asked him to (rather) direct his resources towards saving the men dying.” Later, the great Indian philosopher told his followers: “No wonder we call the cow our mother, this man is a true child of the same.

In fact, the usefulness of a cow is much more than that of a goat. Cow is not only a part of an agrarian economy, but it also produces milk for human consumption. Nobody denies the economic importance of the animal. But, those, who relate cow to religion, are opportunity-seekers. For them, cow is the most important issue today and something else will be important tomorrow. Cows, which produce milk, are not killed in any country and India is no exception. The way goats are sacrificed in Hindu temples everyday in India, it is not done with cows for the sake of meat. So, those, who are killing people in the name of Hinduism in ‘modern’ India, are criminals and they should be punished.

In Swamiji’s words, “If we did not eat beef and mutton, there would be no butchers. Eating meat is only allowable for people who do very hard work, and who are not going to be Bhaktas; but if you are going to be Bhaktas, you should avoid meat.” He also said: “The Brahmins, at one time, ate beef and married Sudras. Calf was killed to please a guest and Sudras cooked beef for Brahmins. There was a time in this very India when, without eating beef, no Brahmin could remain a Brahmin; you read in the Vedas how, when a sannyasin, a king or a great man came into a house, the best bullock was killed.” (Source: The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 9/Newspaper Reports/Part IIi: Indian Newspaper Reports)

Swamiji was a different person, as he was more interested in humanity than religion. That’s why it was possible for him to say: “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” We cannot (and should not) compare Swami Vivekananda with “shining” India’s Saffron terrorists, who do not hesitate to lynch people for “eating beef” (or even for transporting cattle).

Basically, there are two main reasons behind the Hindu community’s sudden anger over the Muslims in India. The first is a historic one and a part of meta-narrative. Just before India emerged as an Independent nation in 1947, some political leaders suddenly became very much active in order to enjoy power in a “free” country and their activities undermined many happy possibilities. Ordinary Hindus and ordinary Muslims did not want partition. In fact, they opposed the move. Yet, it took place, as the people, who took the lease to ensure the welfare of the country, wanted partition.

Some Muslim leaders convinced the common Muslims that after independence, Hindus, who were advanced in English education, would occupy all government jobs. Similarly, Hindus were told that another name of India was Hindustan and it was the original homeland of the majority Hindus. As the nation was marching towards August 15, 1947, there was an increase in such communal poisoning. Before becoming an independent nation, India was divided into two (basically three) parts.

A memory had also been kept awake among Hindus in different ways: the entire building had to be broken to provide a separate room to Muslims. And when Muslims have been given a different place, then why some of them are still here in India? This meta-narrative involves many fragmented stories.
However, there is another story that belongs to the proto-history. It tells the story of harmony between the two communities. And some of our leaders have always tried to keep that truth hidden. Their “larger-than-life” presence in Indian politics also denied the history.

We can analyse the second reason from three different perspectives. Firstly, (in recent times) a kind of political culture has been born in India that encourages us to use violence as a political weapon. It is really difficult to believe that masses will be so cruel only to save cows. (Perhaps) these incidents are taking place due to a particular religious group that is determined to establish a “social justice” which is not supported by the Indian history. Hands of some people do not tremble while killing others in order to establish wrong facts. They are not punished either and it triggers further violence. Once this strategy of establishing wrong facts gets social validity, the matter of political or theoretical position becomes insignificant. If one particular religious group or party enjoys this privilege, then other groups or parties demand the same. Then, the right-left-centre division cannot be possible.

Secondly, the newly-born political culture also encourages criminalisation of politics. The ruling party is constantly influencing the judicial system. It is easy to blame the police when incidents, such as lynching, take place. But the system will not change as long as promotions of high-ranking police officers will be determined by the ruling party.

Thirdly, lumpens are not at all “new” products in Indian politics. People, who were involved in Sanjay Gandhi’s Nasbandi (sterilisation) operation in 1975-77, are currently protecting cows and Bharat Mata (Mother India). Centrist and Leftist parties appeased the minority community in the past and the Shah Bano case is a great example of that.

So, we can say that history repeats itself in India and hope that people, currently trying to establish a wrong social justice, will learn lessons from history.

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