Truth is, Hindus treat cows badly. Now they have a licence to lynch

The new law restricting cattle trade presents the Sangh Parivar with a victory to oppress and question.

 |  5-minute read |   12-06-2017
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The Sangh Parivar movement has chosen to eclipse its political and social strategies. The political face speaks of progress, investment, GDP, GST and economic development and massive investments in India. In this wait-and-see nationalism, the "saffron" is disguised as gold.

The social face of the Sangh Parivar is saffron — to drum up every conceivable campaign to draw "true" Hindus cohesively.


The march towards Hindu nationalism is stirred on. The language of the political (to give rising India its place in the world) distances itself from social campaigns against non-Hindus and Dalits. The political trumpets do not silence social drums. They are strategically kept apart.

The legal face is white (supposedly neutral). The social campaigns to rally the faithful are continuous censorship of Muslim painters, films, research, books, burning Christians and churches, anti-conversion laws, ghar wapsi campaigns, khap panchayats, the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, attacks on colleges and institutes, moral policing, cow veneration and murders over the killing of the cow.

Politically, the government claims progress.

Recall the lynching of Mohd Akhlaq in July 2016 for allegedly storing beef — the VHP demanding death penalty against future Akhlaqs and the Una incident in Gujarat, where seven Dalits suspected of storing beef were mercilessly beaten with iron rods. CM Anandiben ordered Rs 1 lakh compensation plus investigation.

The "law" is invoked above the political or social. The law holds no promise except of processes. The web of law pushes the story into another realm.


The social regime against Dalits is oppressive: being made to lick excreta in Tamil Nadu; boys burnt alive if a "Dalit" goat ate someone’s paddy; being hacked to death with body parts strewn over Ahmednagar, Dalit children burnt to death in Faridabad; being forced to drink urine in Chattarpur (MP); Rohith Vemula’s suicide when he could not take it anymore.

But the cow campaign is both of symbol and oppression: holy cow versus the unholy. The simplest fact about the holy cow is that it supplies milk, its dried excreta is used as fire. The no less complicated fact is that our ancient Hindus used cows not just for sacrifices and bulls for ploughs but also ate them — as many do now.

The shoe industry would not survive without their leather and bone crockery is made indiscriminately from the bones of cows and others. Do Hindus not drink or eat from fine bone china?

Your Unholiness

In real life, Hindus treat cows badly. They loiter in the street eating rubbish. In a Supreme Court case, several yards of "plastic" rubbish were found inside several cows. “Holy Cow” does not entail animal husbandry. Using the cow as a symbol of the faith has a questionable sanctity especially as the "milk" revolution has ensured the cow as a provider without dogmatic fuss.

Those who argue that the Constitution’s Directive Principles provide foundation for the cow’s reverence are misled. To KT Shah, the Directive Principles were a “needless fraud”; to TT Krishnamurty a "dustbin of sentiment". When Bhargava and Govind Das put in the cow provisions, their purpose was to stop indiscriminate slaughter and bring animal husbandry along scientific lines.

In 1958, this is how the Supreme Court understood this. Before his retirement, CJ Lahoti mischievously constituted a seven-judge bench in 2005 when there was no occasion for it to virtually sacralise the cow.

Law misconceived

In May 2017, an elaborate set of rules were drafted called the Prevention of Cruelty (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, by the Union ministry of environment to set up a policing operation so that slaughter "cows" are not sold in animal markets.

Under the constitutional division of power, agriculture, improvement of stock and animal diseases and vets pounds and cattle trespass, markets and fairs are all exclusive state subjects (List II Entry 14, 15, 16, 28). Neither Parliament nor the Union environment ministry have the power to issue these regulations.

These rules will increase cow vigilantism. The vigilantes will watch each transaction of sale at livestock fairs. Only 10 per cent sales are outside these markets. The sellers cannot sell cattle for sale or slaughter. The buyers must certify no further sales for six months. No cattle will be sold outside the state without permission. Monitoring committees will be put in place.

This will unleash private and administrative vigilantism. This law is misconceived on many grounds: (i) West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee refused to obey it. (ii) Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan will definitely challenge it on grounds of legislative incompetence. (iii) Beef eaters will have their protest feasts and challenge the law. (iv) Dalits and Muslims will be beaten and murdered on any pretence, without recourse to law. (v) Livelihoods and exports will be damaged.

While the Madras HC has injuncted the law, Kerala has not, but Rajasthan HC has called for the cow to be declared national animal. The law presents the Sangh Parivar with a victory to oppress and question.

For the last year this oppression is going on resulting in beatings on suspicion, intimidation torture and death. The Centre has given saffronites what they wanted painted white as law.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Also read: How to get away with murder in India? Blame a man for eating beef


Rajeev Dhavan Rajeev Dhavan

Supreme Court lawyer.

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