Friday June 22, 2018

An end to barbarism: Ban on animal slaughter in Nepal

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Picture credit: intoday.in
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By Sreyashi Mazumdar

Cracking down upon the 250-years-old bestial practice of mass animal slaughter on the auspicious occasion of Gandhimai festival in Nepal, the local government and the Gandhimai temple trust have finally belled the cat and have announced the decision of a permanent ban on animal slaughter for the forthcoming years. The decision has not only heralded the cause of animal rights but has also championed the supremacy of prudence over superstition and blind veneration.

Picture credit: cultofthedeadfish.blogspot.com
Picture credit: cultofthedeadfish.blogspot.com

The Gandhimai temple trust officials celebrated the decision, “a momentous celebration of life and free from bloodshed,” according to a report in the Huffington post.  Despite being a tedious job to prohibit people from adopting such barbaric means in an attempt at pleasing God, the temple trust officials have reiterated their claim that 2019 will testify to a bloodless festivity.

Fending for the cause, Shri Ram Chandra Shah, Gandhimai temple trustee, said, “Our concern has been: How do we convince the people, so desperate for the favour of Goddess Gandhimai, that there is another way? How do we bring them on our journey,” as quoted in The Huffington Post.

Picture credit: themalaysianinsider.com
Picture credit: themalaysianinsider.com

The festival which seems to connote barbarism and inhumanity on its face value started off with a Bariyarpur’s farmer giving in to his blind faith in Goddess Gandhimai.  According to a report in the Guardian, the festival started off 250-years-ago. One Bhagwan Choudhary, a farmer who was sent behind the bars after being accused of theft, prayed to Goddess Gandhimai for his release.

Later on, the poor fellow dreamt of the Goddess, who apparently asked him to re-establish her shrine which had been shifted to some other place. Further, she also conveyed that the re-establishment should be preceded by animal slaughter. On being released the next day, Choudhary, according to the Goddess’s decree, slaughtered animals in the backwaters of Tarai and finally giving way to an age-old festival.

Picture credit: animalrecoverymission.org
Picture credit: animalrecoverymission.org

According to reports, the revelry till this date has testified to the presence of a million thronging the Himalayan country from across the border, especially from UP and Bihar. In the year 2009, around 500,000 buffaloes, goats, chickens and other animals were decapitated. However, the number plummeted in the year 2014, the numbers decreased by 70 percent.

The decrease in the numbers was witnessed in the wake of an order rolled out by the Supreme Court in the year 2014. The apex court had ordained a complete ban on the movement of animals from India to Nepal in an attempt at putting an end to the hideous practice.

According to a report in the Humane Society International India, Justice kehar conceded to the cruelty endorsed during the festival. He further added that 70 percent of the animals slaughtered during the festival were from India.

“It has been a long effort …we took a firm stand and it has finally worked,” said Manoj Gautam, president of Animal Nepal Welfare Network, as quoted in a Hindustan Times report.

The efforts to ban animal slaughter also garnered support from stalwarts like British actress Joanna Lumley and the legendary French artist Brigitte Bardot.

Picture credit: aljazeera.com
Picture credit: aljazeera.com

Despite being often portrayed as cannibalistic, owing to the relentless killings and vociferous protests put up by the animal rights activists, Gandhimai festival isn’t essentially about incessant butchery. The festival exemplifies unison of colors, emotions and sounds. It exudes an essence of togetherness that the locales nibble on.

“It reflected a culture that prevails in the Nepalese and Indian plains, where you don’t have much by way of entertainment, so people flock to the fair for much-needed relief from everyday hardship,” ruminated Basanta Basnet, a Kathmandu-based journalist, as quoted in the Guardian.

The new found development gaming for a bloodless revelry would inevitably add on to the sanctity of the festival. Even though it has juddered the faith or irrationality borne by the people, it will soon harmonize the differing opinions, recuperating the forlorn humanity.

 

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Indian Art Forms in International Festivals Through Sands of Culture Series

We sought new opportunities in Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain, working through agents and driving box office sales to make projects economically viable.

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It took some convincing to get the Edinburgh International Film Festival to agree to move Shah Rukh's
Thessaloniki International Film Festival hoarding, wikimedia commons

In 1999, as part of a British Council showcase programme, I travelled to the Edinburgh Festival and that set in motion the idea of creating platforms for Indian contemporary and classical art forms across the world.

Working closely with the Festival Fringe, the International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Edinburgh International Festival, we created an annual offering of work, enlarging our presence from six productions to 16 in a short period. Many thought we were mad, but our long-term objectives paid off in more ways than one. We presented an array of artists: Aditi Mangaldas, Daksha Sheth, Birju Maharaj and Malavika Sarukkai. Mrigaya, the world music group which went on to win the Herald Angel Award at Edinburgh in 2002 and a 5-star review from The Scotsman, Indian Ocean, Lillette Dubey and the Primetime Theatre Group, Adi Shakti, Lushin Dubey, Dadi Pudumjee and the Ishara Theatre Company, are some more names I recollect who were on our entourage. Shah Rukh Khan made his way to Edinburgh in a celebration of the best of Indian arts.

It took some convincing to get the Edinburgh International Film Festival to agree to move Shah Rukh’s “In Conversation” with Nasreen Munni Kabir to a larger venue. They cited examples of having presented the biggest stars, including Sean Connery, in a 300-seat venue. Tickets went on sale and sold out minutes after the box office opened, only to be resold at £100 a ticket! The news made it to The Times front page and the festival organisers, somewhat embarrassed, moved the venue to a 1,000-seat auditorium. Huge crowds gathered at the festival venue. At the after-party, we had to barricade Shah Rukh in a corner, with tables and bouncers guarding him. The Edinburgh festivals hadn’t quite seen something like this before! They were ignorant of work from India as very few shows had ever travelled out.

In 1999, as part of a British Council showcase programme, I travelled to the Edinburgh Festival and that set in motion the idea of creating platforms for Indian contemporary and classical art forms across the world.
Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi at Jaipur Literature Festival, wikimedia commons

The year we presented Ishara Puppet Theatre’s “Transposition”, the infamous liquid bomb incident took place at Heathrow as we landed. Having being evacuated from the airport and shipped to Gatwick, we finally arrived in Edinburgh after a 16-hour delay, only to find that 24 of our 30 outsized puppet boxes and bags had been lost! Each day was spent at the airport warehouse searching for luggage. Five days and three cancelled shows later, the BBC ran a story on our predicament. Hours later, a passenger telephoned Dana Macleod, our coordinator in Edinburgh, to say strange-shaped bags were going around the carousel with stickers bearing her name. The show was back on the road!

Investments in shows and festivals in those early days meant that year-on-year, our balance sheets were red. Co-presenting with existing festivals led to some degree of success, with annual presentations in Singapore, Wellington, Perth and Melbourne. Much of this was a result of networking at the Edinburgh festivals and setting out a plan for collaborations, a strategy we adopted for the next few years. As our footprint grew through Asia to include Hong Kong, Korea and Indonesia, we began to look westwards.

Prompted by our then Consul General, Navdeep Suri, we set up the Shared History Festival in South Africa, to bring about an awareness of a new India and the many opportunities it offered, amongst the one-million strong Indian diaspora. We collaborated with the city of Johannesburg’s annual festival, Arts Alive, to bring about resurgence in the crime-infested Central Business District (CBD) area of New Town. The city planned to use the arts to re-populate the CBD and reduce crime and bring back the local populace. With audiences returning to theatres, New Town has now seen a rise in property prices, new businesses opening and residential blocks being re-built. In Durban and Johannesburg, the arts community and the diaspora who had earlier rejected everything Indian began rediscovering and celebrating their roots. Driven by their need to trace their history many have, since then, travelled back to India.

We sought new opportunities in Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain, working through agents and driving box office sales to make projects economically viable.

Working closely with the Festival Fringe, the International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Edinburgh International Festival, we created an annual offering of work, enlarging our presence from six productions to 16 in a short period.
Shahrukh Khan was present in Edinburgh Film Festival wikimedia commons

We produced “Bollywood Love Story”, a musical, to reach new audiences. We were amazed to discover how small towns like Einbeck, Stuttgart, Eindhoven and larger ones like Florence, Barcelona and Stockholm had a huge appetite to celebrate and embrace Indian culture. Local arts-attending audiences came to our celebration dressed in Indian attire, belting out words of songs they didn’t understand and eating their versions of Indian food. Exporting Bollywood should be the mainstay of our foreign missions in order to capture hearts and minds of people across the world. From Russia to Egypt and China through Canada I have seen an increasing appetite to present and understand the best of Indian culture.

In today’s polarised world, it is imperative that we use the arts as a window into other cultures, traditions, history and a way of working. The arts know no language and have a universality that allows the viewer to seamlessly absorb and appreciate new experiences. A few years ago, the Globe Theatre, as part of the Cultural Olympiad, commissioned an array of exciting productions played out from Afghanistan and India to Romania and Belarus. Each was distinct and brought to the fore, cultural differences and yet was bound together by the universal language of theatre and performance. Audiences who attended may not have understood the nuances of the languages, but this did not detract them from enjoying what they were witnessing. Pia Behrupiya by Company Theatre was a brilliant piece of original stagecraft. Based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, the ensemble cast sang, danced and created magic at the Globe. Last year as part of “India70@UK” we were able to present some of the finest of contemporary theatre, dance and music at premium arts venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Theatre and the Globe.

As the Indian economy continues to grow, the world is curious about India and everything Indian. From exotic locations: Ladhak to Hampi and Ajanta & Ellora to Murshidabad and Varanasi, to a diverse, dynamic and an extremely alive cultural matrix, we have a lot to offer. India needs to create a counter-narrative to that of rapes, murders and religious extremism, absconding businessmen and less then scrupulous business practices that make headlines the world over. The arts can be an anchor for this emerging narrative; not only do they create jobs but also educate and enlighten.

Also Read: Two Men Jailed For Robbing an Indian in Dubai

As the third industrial revolution fades away and we look to the fourth, which will be the coming together of creativity and technology, India is well-placed to be a world leader. Unfortunately, our policies and government are yet to seize the moment and set in place incentives and a route map to the future.

(In our “Shifting Sands of Culture” series, Sanjoy K. Roy, the third of five noted personalities addresses the challenge of taking Indian arts abroad in this article written exclusively for IANS. Sanjoy K. Roy, an entrepreneur of the arts, is the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which produces over 25 highly acclaimed festivals across 40 cities worldwide and includes the world’s largest free literary gathering — the annual ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival) (IANS)