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No proof required: Guns, laws and sacred cows

An Islamic or Jewish nation can prohibit the killing of pigs. A Hindu nation can prohibit the killing of cows. A secular nation can do neither.


Narendra Modi has been recognised around the world as an astute leader, and one who knows the chemistry of politics well.

Narendra Modi has been recognised around the world as an astute leader, and one who knows the chemistry of politics well.

There are lessons that all of us need to learn from the lynching of an innocent man, Mohammad Akhlaq. His “crime” was that he was Muslim and suspected of eating beef, something that is “illegal” in India. The fact that he did not consume beef only worsens the crime. Assume that person x consumes beef in India. Should he be killed? Absolutely not. The law says that, if found guilty, x should be fined Rs 1 lakh and/ or jailed for up to 10 years.

The first lesson, for all of us, is to question the nature of our society, which allows such laws. The second lesson is for the political leadership. The number one political leader in India is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has been recognised around the world as an astute leader, and one who knows the chemistry of politics well.

So how did Modi make the major mistake of tweeting about all and sundry — including a blood clot operation of a former cricketer — but not find the time, or have the inclination, to merely tweet about (forget protest or
condemn) this horrible communal murder? He waited to say something and then did so only after he was shamed into uttering platitudes about this horrific murder by President Pranab Mukherjee’s speech on India’s core values of “diversity, tolerance and plurality”.

What Modi finally did say was that, instead of Hindus and Muslims fighting each other, they should fight poverty. A nice, well-rehearsed line, and one that Modi used effectively in the 2014 election campaign. One has several relevant questions, but first, Modi must be well aware of that ancient Indian (Hindu?) saying: Whatever you are going to do tomorrow, do today — and whatever you are going to do today, do now. So, why the inordinate 10-day delay in issuing a statement? Has Modi heard of the old Latin rule, “qui tacet consentire videtur (he who is silent is taken to agree)”?

Second question, and which was the real topic of the president’s speech: Can multiethnic and multicultural India afford fundamentalist and “separatist” views? One can well ask, can any country afford, let alone endorse, Talibanisation? Fundamentalism begins with banning, with believing that only “they” have the right answer to how people should dress, pray, eat, see or believe. Are our Hindu leaders looking at what has happened to Pakistan since it was taken over by religious fundamentalists? Is the same already happening in India? And what are our political leaders doing about it?

There are lessons that Modi can learn from his good statesmanlike friend, US President Barack Obama. Just three days after the Dadri lynching, there was a mass shooting of innocent college students by a lonely, deranged individual in possession of a truckload of guns in Oregon. Within hours of this mass murder, Obama appeared on the airwaves to express horror at the crime. Obama said he wanted to politicise this mass murder in order to bring sanity to insane US gun laws. In the US, they have the Second Amendment to their constitution, according to which “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The US constitution was written at a time when the founding fathers were fighting a war against the colonisers. A legitimate question asked by Obama and many others is whether circumstances have changed in the last 250 years. Do Americans really need guns to protect themselves today against an invading army? Do fundamentalist Americans realise that more Americans have been killed by guns in the US since 1968 than in all US wars?

Guns are America’s sacred cows and it appears that they are not dealing with the problem any better than we are. In India, we have laws against cow slaughter and the consumption of cow-meat. The directive principles of state policy say that “The state shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”

The directive principles are not law, but suggestions for legislation. The Constitution-writers recognised that they were treading on thin “constitutional” ground when they suggested a ban on the slaughter of cows and buffaloes but not goats, pigs or other animals. Goats give milk, so why are we allowed to eat mutton? The failure of the Constitution is that it wants India to be a Hindu state, but shies away from saying so.

But our Supreme Court judges are not shy from interpreting the Constitution in a Hinduised manner. In 1959, the SC allowed the killing of cows after they reached the age of 16. Why was this done? Because they felt that resources and fodder were scarce, so older cows could be killed to make way for younger ones.

But a 2005 SC judgment reversed the 1959 judgment and said that cows and bulls could not be slaughtered and gave the following reasons, quoting from reports of the National Commission on Cattle: “It cannot be accepted that bulls and bullocks become useless after the age of 16… [This is] because till the end of their lives they yield excreta in the form of urine and dung, which are both extremely useful for the production of biogas and manure… An old bullock gives five tonnes of dung and 343 pounds of urine in a year, which can help in the manufacture of 20 cartloads of composed manure”.

Note how the Hinduised SC invokes only economics, and bad economics at that, rather than coming out and boldly stating that Indians cannot kill cows because Hindu fundamentalists, to whom we bow to, tell us that we cannot kill cows. An Islamic or Jewish nation can prohibit the killing of pigs; a Hindu nation can prohibit the killing of cows; a secular nation can do neither. According to the 2005 judgment (note, the BJP was not in power then!) the idea of India is that of a Hindu nation.

In India, we interpret laws in a half-pregnant manner. For example, SCs, STs and OBCs have education and job reservations on the basis of caste, but eligibility of the disadvantaged is not allowed on the basis of religion. Why not? Further, the SCs, STs and OBCs constitute close to two-thirds of the population. But the SC mandates that you can be half-pregnant: The maximum limit for reservations is 50 per cent. Only in casteist Hindu India.

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