India should be ashamed of charging Akhlaq's family with 'cow slaughter'

Arpan Acharya
Arpan AcharyaJul 15, 2016 | 13:31

India should be ashamed of charging Akhlaq's family with 'cow slaughter'

I did not think that as a society we could stoop this low.

A trial has been ordered against Mohammad Akhlaq’s family for cow slaughter. In any civilised nation the Dadri lynching case would have provoked an outcry and seen the guilty punished. Akhlaq’s family must surely be wondering how they are the ones at the receiving end of the legal process. The answer, perhaps, is we are not a civilised nation.


The Congress and the Samajwadi Party have shamelessly jumped into the fray, decrying the lab report that claims the meat was indeed beef. Nobody, however, has the courage to come out and say what would have been said in a civilised society. The provenance of the meat does not matter when a man was pulled out of his house and lynched for consuming it.

It is shameful that people are rejoicing at the court order directing action against the beleaguered family. In their eyes, it somehow vindicates the lynching. A cow is safer than women in most parts of the country. At a time our education and healthcare infrastructure desperately needs funding, we waste resources by creating cow ministries and researching the benefits of cow urine.

How does one live down consigning a family to a torture that would be lauded for its creativity if it weren’t real and so heinous?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, normally so grandiloquent when it comes to peddling the snake-oil that is India’s growth story, used the uncharacteristically banal word "unfortunate" to describe the said events.

Surely, the PM needs to be more articulate, especially when he is normally so? Surely, a man’s lynching deserves more anguish-ridden terms than "unfortunate"? But as I said, perhaps we aren’t a civilised nation.


Rahul Gandhi was all rolled-up sleeves and (flickering) fire and (dampened) brimstone, but he did not have the courage to say that it is okay to eat beef and that a man doesn’t deserve a horrible death because of his dietary preferences. Perhaps, he was afraid the Congress would lose its votebank. What votebank! There was some talk about India’s diversity and how it will see us through (till the next time perhaps?), but no political party had the maturity to stand up and say that a man deserves more protection than a cow.

How could they?

Political parties are a reflection of the society they function in. As a society, we think it is okay for a man to rape his wife and not be prosecuted. We donate jewellery to temple hundis and don’t buy the beggar at its gates a piece of bread. We valorise soldiers but forget to do the same for the manual scavenger (who, by the way, has a greater risk of dying because of his job).

We treat those who are not from the Indian mainland as foreigners and express outrage when they don’t consider themselves Indian. To expect our politicians to be different is naïve. Very few have gone beyond the prejudices of their electorate and dragged the electorate with them. Mandela, after apartheid, was one of those because of his insistence, against popular opinion, that there would be no reciprocal mistreatment of whites in South Africa. Can we expect anything similar from the current crop that "serves" our country? Not really.

To expect our politicians to be different is naïve.

I can imagine reactions to this piece already. Go to Pakistan; they would kill me for eating pork! Go to Saudi Arabia; the same plus my girlfriend won’t be able to make other men envious of me by showing off her legs! Bloody sickular; and the Constitution too! Khangress chamcha; not from a royal family! Presstitute; not a journalist really! Anti-national; finally yes (I am from JNU)! What do these reactions tell us about the nature of debate in our society? Nothing new, actually.

It is simply that there is a now a free forum to express the hypocrisy which has always characterised us as a nation. The toxicity simmering underneath our platitudes of "unity in diversity" has now bubbled over and we have been shown up for the people we are; shallow, abusive, illogical, and superstitious. I don’t add "illiberal" to the mix because expecting that from us would surely be a joke!

The claim that intolerance is rising is false because we were never a tolerant nation. What did Britain do when Rushdie was persecuted for the Satanic Verses? Gave him protection and eventually revoked the law which made blasphemy a crime claiming that the best shield for the devout is their devotion and that the (civilised) state has no business meddling in the same. What did we do when MF Hussain was hounded? Shamefully, abdicated our responsibility and let one of our greatest artists die unmourned, away from the country he loved so much.

Loving my country does not mean I deify it.

Admiring its achievements cannot make me blind to its many flaws. My mother is my mother and my country my country and the two are not the same. The love that I have for both is different and you cannot insist on comparing and contrasting the two and making me liable in front of your kangaroo courts. I refuse your right to judge me for eating beef or pork, unless you extend the courtesy (and protection) that you have for animals to fellow human beings.

And even then I only promise to listen to you if you can attempt to speak without holding a trident or a scimitar to my throat. I might claim all these rights but they all come to naught when the state abdicates its responsibility to uphold them.

We could not protect you from being killed, Akhlaq, and for that we are (will one day be?) ashamed. We are not doing a great job of protecting your family either. Surely, the social contract, just like your family’s hopes, has given up the ghost.

Last updated: July 15, 2016 | 20:50
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