Beef, Hindutva and bigotry: Constitution has no place for it

This ban is not principled but opportunist.

 |  3-minute read |   03-10-2015
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Why did the BJP suddenly and selectively ban beef? They say it is in the Constitution. That is not quite true. In the Directive Principles Article 48 is titled "Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry". It mentions that the State shall "take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle". Therefore there is no religious reason for the ban, it is to preserve and improve the breeds. Has that been followed? However, milch and draught cattle includes buffalos, mithun and yak, which are eaten in India, especially the first. That was no accident. But in every city, town and village, stray and emaciated cows, calves and bulls are seen feeding on garbage.

How far is Article 48 being followed in scientific breeding of cows and calves? Hardly at all. But it is crystal clear that there is no religious basis to the ban on cows including milch and draught cattle. In any case Directive Principles are not binding, unless they are supporting a Fundamental Right. This is clearly not the case here.

Also read: Should I be worried for the Muslim family in my neighbourhood?

There are other Directive Principles. Article 41 lays down the "Right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases" including "unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and other cases of undeserved want". Ever heard any pious Hindutva politician referring to this?

Article 39(b) "The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the ownership and control of the material resources are so distributed as best to subserved the common good;" Article 39(d) "that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women; Article 44 "The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India." None of these articles have been completely implemented. Why not, after so many governments, political parties? They are clearly not interested. But all of these articles seek to empower the Indian people.

The beef ban, as the recent murder instigated by a Hindu priest in Dadri has shown, is not based on Constitutional principles but Hindutva. It is generated by debased communal sentiment not religion. And this is not new. It predates independent India. But VD "Veer" Savarkar greatly respected by the Sangh Parivar, had written that beef should be available as it was a source of cheap protein for the poor. The BJP has brought out a stamp of Savarkar, but seems to have selectively read his works.

In Kashmir, a Dogra king banned beef decades ago. But now there are demands for beef to be legalised. Yet, the same BJP has permitted beef in Goa, as the Congress-led front has allowed beef in Kerala. So this beef ban is not principled but opportunist. It is intended to communalise Indian society, to garner votes in coming elections, apart from cowing minorities and secular people.

If secularism and our Constitutional Rights mean anything, this challenge must be met. Reason not reaction must be our motto.

Also read: How J&K beef ban is in turn popularising beef eating


Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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