By Nithin Sridhar
An Analysis of Hindu Symbols and Practices: Part 6
In the last few months, the discourse on 'beef' has been much talked about and highlighted. Politicians, journalists, activists, and intellectuals have repeatedly stressed their 'right' to eat whatever food they desire. Massive outrage and beef parties have been organized to protest against the regressive attitude of 'Hindutva forces' that they perceive as being a threat to India's liberalism.
Protest by Kerala's MPs over police inspection of the Kerala House in New Delhi after getting complaints about cow-meat being served there, was one such incident of outrage. Beef parties were also arranged by political outfits in Kolkata, Kashmir and Kerala to protest against the inspection and bans.
Previously, a lawmaker in Kashmir had organized a beef party to protest against the beef ban in Jammu and Kashmir. After the ghastly Dadri Lynching incident over rumors about beef, numerous beef parties have been arranged to protest against the lynching. One such party was organized in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, where Hindus and Muslims equally consumed beef in protest. Last week, a group of poets, theatre artists, NGO's, etc. took to the street and organized beef party to protest against growing intolerance across the country!
There is nothing wrong per se in people choosing to eat food of their choice including beef. But, when a particular choice of food is used to make a socio-political statement, when it is used to uphold alien ethos and degrade native cultural values, then, it becomes vital that such a political agenda is exposed.
The very concept of a party organized to celebrate 'consumption of beef' is not only offensive to the cultural values of Indians, it is an outright celebration of 'violence'.
Indian culture is deeply rooted in the concept of 'Ahimsa' (Non-injury) as it considers plants, animals, and all life as a manifestation of divinity. It makes no distinction between secular and sacred. Instead, it perceives even the secular elements as having a sacred basis. Thus, no plant, no animal is considered inferior to humans, nor do humans own their lives.
This recognition of the universal presence of the Divine force has evolved into the concept of Ahimsa, wherein a stronger does not exploit the weaker, instead recognizes the rights of weaker to exist. Though, absolute non-injury is not possible in practice, Ahimsa is still the ideal that people should continuously thrive to attain. Thus, any party or gathering that celebrates the murder of an animal for the sake of taste and politics goes against the ethos of Ahimsa.
The question is, why should a protest against communal violence (even if the violence happened over rumor about beef) include consumption of beef? Are there no other ways of protest? What happened to candle light marches, which is otherwise a favorite means adopted by liberals?
The reality is that, the parties are actually not aimed at protesting against communal violence, or against the government's attempts at curtailing the freedom to eat. These are all only excuses, only props that are being used. The real target is Sanatana Dharma which is the very foundation of Indian ethos and way of life.
There was outrage among Indian liberals when buffalos were sacrificed in Nepal during a Hindu ceremony. Liberals had become animal rights activists and Hindu religion was slammed for its violence. Yet, these same liberals oppose cow-protection and celebrate beef parties. Where is the concern for animal rights now?
The cows which are very calm, loving, and innocent by nature, must be the most unlucky animal among all animals across the world. They are unlucky at least in India. No animal rights activists, no liberals want to take up their issue, because unfortunately they have been associated with Hindu religion.
Every person who takes up the cause of cow-protection is slammed as a Hindutva activist, a political worker, etc. For example Prashanth Poojary. Many people who otherwise support animal rights and protest against killing of, say dogs, have no sympathy for cows.
Arguments after arguments are made about why cows must be killed and eaten and not protected. Typical arguments include, cow population is increasing very fast, maintaining cows will be economic burden, people are starving on streets so why waste money over Goshalas, etc.
This current liberal attitude towards animals in general and cows in particular is deeply rooted in a colonial education system that is still being practiced in India. The British, as part of their strategy to 'civilize' Indians, successfully dismantled Indian education system rooted in Indian ethos and replaced it by British education system built upon European, especially the Christian world view.
Thus, animals were no longer perceived as a manifestation of the divine. Instead, it was taught that, animals have been born so that they can be slaughtered, eaten, and their body parts used for various human luxuries.
The humans were no longer perceived as being connected to the nature through a divine bond. Instead, it was taught that, humans are the masters who can unscrupulously exploit everything available in nature for fulfilling one's own perversions.
The concept of Ahimsa (non-injury), Dama (self-control), and Daya (compassion) were completely replaced by violence, uncontrolled desire, and indifference.
The British had a special loathing towards the Hindu veneration of cows, because they not only perceived cows as a stumbling block to their attempts of civilizing Indians to adopt Christian values, but the cows were also one of their chief sources of food.
It is this colonial education that has today manifested in the form of beef parties. The parties reveal a mindset that believes in human superiority and justifies human violence towards animals.
By celebrating 'beef parties' which are nothing but acts of violence committed against innocent cows, the liberals have once again made a political statement that in the liberal discourse, Hindus have no human rights and similarly, cows which are deeply associated with Hinduism have no animal right as well.
It is high time that, Indians renounce this colonial outlook and reclaim their native cultural ethos rooted in Ahimsa and Daya. Today, people have become highly ingratitude and selfish in nature. They use and exploit cows for their milk, but then send them away into slaughterhouses once the cows stop producing milk. This culture of violence, exploitation, and ingratitude must be renounced.
In the past, when rural society was predominant, almost every family used to own cows and bulls and they used to take good care of them. Cows and bulls were also the backbone of Indian economy.
Today in this highly urbanized scenario, things have greatly changed. But, changed times does not mean, people cannot return back to their own cultural values. Further, the role of cow in the economy and agriculture has not reduced. Cow milk is still a major source of nutrition.
Though every family may not be able to own a cow, they can at least feed cows that hungrily roam on the streets. Every family may not be able to individually do much to help cows, but people living in a locality or a housing society may build a cow-shelter (goshala) for the cows present in their area.
Many other measures at a larger scale may be slowly evolved that would not only protect the cows, but also will make it economically viable. A simple change in the mindset can go a long way in finding solutions to complex problems. In this case, all that is needed to begin with is the abandonment of the mindset rooted in celebration of violence and reclaiming of the Indian ethos rooted in Ahimsa (Non-injury) and Daya (Compassion).
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