We do not argue with those who disagree with us, we destroy them.
—Benito Mussolini (The Lazio Speeches (1936), as quoted in The Book of Italian Wisdom by Antonio Santi, Citadel Press, 2003: 88).
Averitable revolution has broken out in the country. The intellectual class that has been silent all this while, to the extent of appearing spineless, as the country was being pushed towards fascism suddenly woke up and began returning its literary awards. What appeared as a trickle of conscience on 4 September 2015, when a noted Hindi writer Uday Prakash protested the murder of a fellow winner of Sahitya Akademi award M M Kalburgi a few days earlier by returning his award, has turned into an avalanche that has swept even Prime Minister Narendra Modi out of his strategic silence. Nearly a month after Uday Prakash did it, two literary giants, Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi, returned their awards, which catalysed the flood of protests. As I write, over 35 noted writers have already returned their awards and we are still counting. In the context of an all-out onslaught of rightist forces this indeed is remarkable.
Modispeak appeared to assume that it was an expression of intellectual outrage just over the lynching of an innocent 52-year-old Muslim man, Mohammad Akhlaq, in Uttar Pradesh on a rumour that his family stored and ate beef. He did not have a word against Kalburgi’s murder, which had sparked off the writers’ protests; nor had he said anything about the killings of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare before that. Even when he was forced to comment on the Dadri incident he just said that it was “sad and unfortunate” and had nothing to say about the loud justifications of the killing by his party legislator Sangeet Som—who incidentally ran a beef export business—and of course, by assorted sadhus and sadhvis of his Parivar. While retorting that his government did not have anything do with Akhlaq’s killing, he did not forget to take his characteristic potshots at the opposition that they were spreading communalism. There was no iota of remorse or sense of shame either in him or any of his colleagues in the government over the ongoing revolt of writers—the moral conscience of the nation.
Beef Ban Politics
The beef ban is pure politics of the foulest minds because it is used to disintegrate India by targeting Muslims as though they are necessarily beef eaters. When Lalu Prasad Yadav said that even Hindus eat beef, it was the statement of fact but was flared up by the ignoramuses in the media as a big controversy. If one named people, Dalits, Adivasis, the non-farming Other Backward Class castes, Muslims, Christians and the entire North East, which may add up to over a half of India’s population, eat beef. Neither all of these named people eat it nor do all of the rest of so-called Hindus not eat it. To ban beef eating therefore is a gross violation of the fundamental right to life and livelihood. The Hindutva brigade is taking shelter under the fig leaf of Article 48 of the Constitution—the Directive Principles of State Policy—that reads,
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 other milch and draught cattle.
It is a testimony to the anti-people character of the ruling classes that they have systematically ignored all directive principles, including the one about completing free and universal education of all children up to 14 years within 10 years and singularly focused on the cow. The cow became more important than the future of the country. As a matter of fact the article does not imply unqualified prohibition of cow slaughter but it has been twisted to mean so and even the courts have accepted it unquestioningly. Notwithstanding, it talks of banning slaughter of cows, not eating cow meat, least the meat of entire non-milch cattle. Sadly, it has come to mean it.
With regard to the genesis of this article, the protagonists of beef ban must know that two Muslim representatives in the Constituent Assembly (Z A Lari from the United Provinces, and Syed Muhammad Sa’adulla from Assam) had volunteered to approve it out of respect for the religious belief of the Hindus. The irrationality of the orthodox Hindus, however, had gone so far as to push it as one of the fundamental rights. It goes to the credit of Ambedkar that he spared India global ridicule by not incorporating an animal right within the fundamental rights of (hu)mans, leaving space for a later rethink. The orthodox Hindu members marshalled the “spiritual economics” of the Bhagavad Gita to camouflage their argument. They did not know the ban on cow killing was extant in most parts of the ancient world where oxen were thedraught force in agriculture. But with the changes in technology and food pattern (meat being more compact food) the “spiritual economics” of cow protection was overtaken by the real economics of cow slaughter. As a matter of fact, the priestly Brahmins were the biggest cow slaughterers, who provoked Buddha’s revolt for protecting animals. The argument of the Hindutva forces is anachronistic, dishonest and anti-development, pushing the country to the period of the Gita.
Cow versus Man
The cow politics of the right-wingers, let it be plainly said, amounts to slaughtering people; not just some five Dalits in Jhajjar or a Muslim in Dadri or a Kashmiri trucker in Udhampur but millions of farmers with cattle who are already distressed because of the negative terms of trade in agriculture, and the Social Darwinist policies of neo-liberalism. They will now have to deal with the additional load of the negative economic returns of rearing cows. This economics critically depends on cow being sold to slaughterhouses after her productive period. A typical cow is sold off abroad after 3–4 lactations, as beyond that her productivity as well as quality of milk deteriorates. In India, it could stretch up to 8–10 lactations beyond which she could live up to a minimum of 3–4 years. If it is not sold off then, the entire economics of cattle ownership by the farmer turns topsy-turvy. And this is not all. Apart from farmers there are millions, mostly Dalits, eking out their lives in the slaughter industry, hide industry, etc, who would be rendered jobless. Also, the resultant price rise of other meats would aggravate the food crisis for them. Already, there is a severe protein deficiency among Indians, which mar their physical and mental abilities. According to a consumer survey conducted by the Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB), 91% of vegetarians and 85% of non-vegetarians had protein deficiency, which is defined as less than 1 gram protein per kg of the body weight per day. Beef being an important source of protein for poor people, its ban means, almost literally, killing them. The Hindutva argument to this is spurious and based only on emotionally exploitative mumbo jumbo.
The economic aspect of cow protection has been researched by academics in the last decade. The latest report published by Esther Gehrke and Michael Grimm seems to concur with the findings of our own, M V Dandekar and K N Raj, both Hindus and perhaps Brahmins, who published their research in 1969. Both were firmly of the view that the practice of cow worship actually stood in the way of a more rational utilisation of India’s bovine resources. Raj went on to suggest that the only role religion played was in determining the method of getting rid of unwanted cattle. He observed that rather than sending cows to slaughterhouses, north Indian farmers preferred a method of slow death through deliberate starvation or even abandonment, landing them into slaughterhouses in Bangladesh. Obviously, there is no consideration of these facts in the Hindutva frenzy around the holy cow.
The deceit and dishonesty of the Hindutva camp lies in its hydra-headedness that speaks in multiple voices. While Modi–Shah were compelled to speak disapprovingly about the Dadri lynching because of the Bihar elections, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the fountainhead of foolishness of the Hindu right, justified it in its mouthpiece—Panchjanya. An article carried as a cover story said, “Vedas order killing of the sinner who kills a cow.” It slammed writers who returned their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest over the Dadri murder and called them insensitive to Hindu sentiments. Expectedly, the RSS later tried to distance itself from the article saying it was not an editorial. While it said so, its foot soldiers continued to display bravado, threatening people variously for daring to disagree with their irrationality. The Sakshi Maharajs, Sadhvi Prachis, and several others spread poison among people and when cornered, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would continue to say “they are not us.”
Another stock-in-trade the BJP uses is to pick up some similar incident that occurred when the Congress was ruling, forgetting the fact that people have not voted for it to repeat or to overdo the misdoings of the Congress. As regards the writers’ protest, while it is certainly triggered by the Dadri lynching it is not confined to that. It is a protest against the systematic destruction of institutions and unscrupulous poisoning of polity they have been carrying out to realise their dream of a Hindu Rashtra. It is an extremely important step by our writers but perhaps too late. The entire world has noted this revolt but it has failed to shame the shameless Hindutva establishment. They are basically beyond any reasoning or rationality. The followers of Mussolini only know the language of killing dissenters. The only response that can send this bunch of cowards cowering into their hides is the raw force of people, the victims of brahmanism, sans any intricate rationale. People must understand that the Hindu Rashtra at its core is the revivalist project of a bunch of Brahmanic bigots, foolishly dreaming of establishing their supremacy. It can be defeated just in minutes even if a few of these victims raise their hands in unison!