Certain sections of the Sangh Parivar and the extended saffron brigade have an uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the foot out of sheer mindlessness or for narrow political gains. But the ability of India's liberal brigade to take advantage of unfortunate incidents like the Dadri killing to further their agenda at any cost is perhaps sharper.
The way the liberal, or to be more precise, the lobby of Left thinkers, has launched an attack on the cow, besides of course on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS, by capitalising on the Dadri incident, is a powerful example of that. The disquiet in the Sangh Parivar over the Dadri lynching, Modi’s stand against it which was amply reflected in his Bihar speech, and before that, the Union home ministry’s strong directive to states to maintain communal harmony in the wake of the incident have all been swept aside to clear the path for a massive, no-holds-barred attack on the targeted trio – Modi, RSS and the cow itself.
Slanted books written in the past with the aim of furthering the Left agenda, ignoring, or rather, hurting the traditional Hindu religious sentiments and depicting how the cow was never a holy animal for Hindus in ancient India, are being dusted off. A number of eminent persons from the world of literature and culture starting with Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest against what they see as a threat to secularism but more as one last opportunity to derail the Sangh Parivar.
It doesn’t matter to them that some Muslims from the Wahabi creed continue to slaughter cows despite a fatwa issued some years ago by the Deoband School to respect Hindu sentiments and that the RSS leadership has been running a positive programme amongst Muslim shepherds across India to convince them of the cow's utility. It also doesn’t matter to them if their blind stand causes cleavages in the society which will be difficult to sew back because at the centre of the debate is something that strongly represents the Hindu religious sentiment cutting across caste lines – the cow. How one-sided this debate is is best illustrated by the fact that no one from this brigade utters a single word to respect the Hindu feelings when cows are slaughtered, violating laws and there is adequate evidence to prove it.
The same happened in the second week of October when a calf was slaughtered at a hotel in Bharuch district and the Gujarat police confiscated the remains of the slaughtered calf. Just imagine this happening at the height of the debate over the cow, but no one is talking about it because it is against the slanted definition of secularism in our country. Interestingly, Bharuch is the same district which has long been known as the nursery of Wahabism and where on the eve of the Godhra train burning (that killed 59 Hindus) in February, 2002, dozens of cows were openly slaughtered in the district’s Tankara village and the beef was sold openly, in complete violation of not just the Hindu sentiment but the anti-slaughter law itself. The entire episode was recorded by a cow protection worker at that time.
Then in a 2013 incident, several policemen including an IPS officer of the powerful crime branch of the Ahmedabad Police were injured when Wahabi Muslim butchers allegedly involved in cow slaughter attacked them in Shahpur area of the city when the policemen tried to raid the butchers. The attack on the police was fierce and it not only shook the force but made a mockery of the impression created by human rights activists that Muslims were under pressure under a "Hindutva government" in Gujarat. Needless to say the incident didn’t get even one per cent of the publicity that Dadri got. The reason: It would have gone against the slanted, pro-Muslim definition of Indian secularism.
Clearly, if there is ample evidence to prove cow slaughter has been going on intermittently even in the so-called Hindutva laboratory, Gujarat, then a layman can certainly ask what must be the state of affairs in other states. But fortunately, the hue and cry has been less in the case of Gujarat because of Narendra Modi. When he was the chief minister, he had developed an effective machinery to tackle cow slaughter incidents through law enforcement agencies. It prevented cow protection vigilantes from taking law in their own hands.
Significantly, when the butchers in Gujarat came out with a new strategy to sell cow meat by moving the meat in small transport vehicles in what was a strategy to hoodwink the police, the Modi government came up with the concept of mobile forensic vans. Now when a meat-laden vehicle is caught by cow protection workers or by the police, the forensic van lands up at the spot on a police call within a span of three hours and confirms whether the meat is of a cow or buffalo. If it is found to be that of a cow, the transporter and the butcher are booked.
But this is just one side of the story and one that highlights only the prevention aspect. There has been a series of efforts by the Parivar to improve the breed and productivity of cows in many BJP-ruled states starting with Gujarat. The Gujarat government has an annual budget of more than Rs 250 crore to improve the productivity of cows through multiple means and also to develop pasture land. Each village is given Rs 15 lakh for the development of pasture land.
Interestingly, the Gujarat Gauseva and Gauchar (Pastureland) Vikas Board has created a pool of 700 genetically strong bulls which are rotated in a planned way in villages to improve the the quality of the cow breed. The target is to scale the average milk output of a cow from Rs 10 to 20 litres. Incidentally, those supporting cow slaughter talk about the jolt to the economy that would happen by the prevention of cow slaughter. But they conveniently ignore the burgeoning economy that has developed around the live cow in recent years in the form of the medically-useful cow urine and dung, thanks to the efforts of the Sangh Parivar and many dynamic individuals.
Gujarat Gauseva and Gauchar Vikas Board chairperson Vallabh Katheriya, who is a former Union minister and RSS leader, said: “We have created a new atmosphere to improve the cow breed through positive measures. Recently, the RSS held a big meet of 15,000 Muslim shepherds and agriculturists in the Mewat region. The Muslim participants there very sincerely vowed to be play a role in taking ahead the 'Save the Cow' campaign. But none is even talking about these positive measures of the Sangh Parivar."
The debate over cow slaughter has more of a religious context than an economic one. Slaughtering cows at temples before demolishing them and then converting them into mosques was common during the Sultanate period and till the advent of Akbar. The only two rulers besides Akbar who tried to prevent cow slaughter in deference to the Hindu religious sentiment were Zainul Abidin of Kashmir (1420-1470) and Ibrahim Adil Shah of Bijapur (1580-1627), better known as one of the greatest patrons of Indian classical music and worshipper of goddess Saraswati.
Otherwise history, particularly before Akbar, is replete with episodes which show that slaughtering the cow was the chief weapon of Muslim rulers to spread radical Islam by insulting Hindu religious sentiments. However, after Akbar, Aurangzeb revived the evil practice. When he came to Ahmedabad as governor in 1645, the first thing he did was to break the Chitamani Jain Temple and slaughter a cow there, before converting it into a mosque. The temple was later restored by his tolerant brother Dara Shikoh. So, it is no wonder that many Muslims, especially Wahabi Muslims (who dislike Akbar for his liberal views), slaughter cows also from a religious angle.
Importantly, the works of eminent historians like Dr RC Mazumdar, Jadunath Sarkar, Ishwari Prasad and VD Mahajan - who were by no means of the Hindutva persuasion, but nationalist intellectuals respecting religious sentiments - confirm how slaughtering cows was part of the strategy of radical Muslim rulers to put down the Hindus. And that is the reason why Mahadji Shinde (Scindia), the great Maratha general and Wakil-e-Mutaliq (protector) of emperor Shah Alam-II, got the emperor to issue a sanad reviving the ban on cow slaughter in 1792 AD as a present to himself for the services he had rendered against the Rohilla menace.
But there is a larger debate here when it comes to the cow. India was divided at the behest of a section of Muslims who wanted an Islamic state and Hindus allowed the Partition with a heavy heart. Then a majority of Hindus were driven out of Pakistan after the Partition at the point of violence, plunder and rape. A similar reaction in India against local Muslims, after it started, was effectively retrained by Gandhiji, Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel, thanks to their firm commitment to a secular India. And as a result, Muslims were secured in this country. In the backdrop of this history, are Muslims not supposed to respect the majority Hindus’ religious sentiment over the cow in secular India?
Two more points. One, can a Sikh butcher set up a shop of hog meat near the shop of a Muslim butcher in the name of eating and other rights? He can do so legally but none will disagree that such step can trigger a riot by Muslims in the name of religious provocation.
And, two, in 1970s a senior RSS leader of Gujarat, late Dr Nilnath Vinod, was in-charge of the slaughterhouses under the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). A favourite of second RSS head Guru Golwalkar, he was most feared and hated by a section of Muslim butchers because he used to come down heavily on them when they were found to be indulging in cow slaughter in violation of the existing law. But when the proposal for setting up mechanised slaughterhouses came in the AMC, Vinod opposed and had it dropped because it would have robbed many butchers of their livelihood. As a result, the hated Vinod instantly became a hero of Ahmedabad's butcher community. After that, every Diwali, Muslim butchers used to be at Vinod's house to greet him. It continued even after he retired. Are the liberals listening?