More to cow curbs than meets the eye

SS DhawanUpdated: Thursday, May 30, 2019, 06:22 AM IST
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One must felicitate the Narendra Modi government. The State, despite its other onerous responsibilities such as implementing the GST and fighting a militancy in Kashmir, has decided to protect the humble defenceless cow. Possibly, the government will do so in its leisure time!

The irony is that as our democracy matures – we are turning 71 shortly – we are still discussing such peripheral subjects as cow slaughter, beef festival and lynching of Dalits. All of us enjoy such healthy, albeit one-sided, debates but one also hopes they will help us as a nation to focus better on the business of governance.

Occasionally, I have a sneaking suspicion that all this has little to do with cattle and more to do with the culinary habits of a section of the population, especially down South and in the North East.

I also suspect this has less to do with animal rights and more to do with the livelihood of thousands of poor souls who subsist on meagre earnings as roadside hawkers – mostly Muslims – who sell beef and its derivatives.

That all this should bother a progressive centrist party like the BJP – which should be more concerned about its reform agenda, country’s infrastructure and protecting the interests of corporates and big interest groups – is beyond comprehension. Why should a government be least bothered about liberating us from a particular diet is another mystery.

Perhaps there is a devil’s pact between the RSS and the BJP; since the RSS has helped the BJP wrest power in Uttar Pradesh, the latter feels obliged to give the former free run in implementation of its saffron agenda.

As a part of this political template, a loaded message is being put out that cow protection will now be the authorised activity of gau rakshaks and that these vigilante outfits have the tacit support of the government and the Sangh parivar.

But will the Centre’s intervention liberate the cow? Not much, except that the cattle can continue to lord over the roads, loiter in thoroughfares, squat in garbage dumps, eat plastic until their bellies are full, and when tired, retire to their stinking barns where they can be tethered and milked by a grateful nation!

Though the milch cow is assured of care as a calf and in adulthood, what will happen to the infirm and abandoned cattle is anybody’s guess. Will the State take care of them in a hospice or dispose them of in modern hygienic abattoirs? Or are they perpetually doomed to stand in gaushalas and wallow in urine and dung?

Nonetheless, it is a great day for gau rakshaks! These animal rights purists, without raising a finger on a Dalit or a Muslim, were able to secure a countrywide ban on sale of cow for slaughter.

One welcomes the mainstreaming of the animal rights movement, but will it also extend to chickens that are stacked like sardines in cages, just before the bloodletting?

It is high time the gau rakshaks took the matter in their hands and put an end to the historical suffering and oppression of the cow as well.

Not by worshipping the cow to heart’s content, not just by depicting them on calendars as a mascot of our cosmic identity, not by protecting them from non Hindus, not by becoming a law unto themselves, but by chaperoning the animal from life to death.

Perhaps this is a historic time for dedicated gau rakshaks to rise to the occasion and reinforce their Hindu identity by actually doing their bit for the animal. They can do so by henceforth taking upon themselves the onerous task of disposing of the carcasses of cattle lying in public places.

So, this is the great Modi vision — one nation, one language, one anthem, one diet, one civil law and, of course, one animal!

Possibly, the utopian idea is to create a society of zombies — where conformism is the mantra. It is not too difficult to achieve either. We have all done this in the school assembly — that is, wear the same nondescript uniform, sing the same bland prayer, do the same mindless exercises and salute the same headmaster — the possibilities are endless.

But this undue stress on Hindutva and linking these peripheral issues to nationalism and, further, hammering the saffron agenda down people’s throats is not what Democracy is all about.

My plea to my countrymen is: feel grateful to the cow for your daily intake of milk and worship it, if you so wish, but do not allow it to have a tenacious hold over your mind and emotional quotient.

Also, take better care of the animal. But this might be a tall order because for some inexplicable reason, we have switched our affections to dogs, cats and even crows.

The author is a former editor of The Free Press Journal

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