The self proclaimed protectors of the mother cow have been unleashing virulent attacks on the most marginalized people in our country particularly on Muslims and Dalits. What we have witnessed in the recent times after the coming of Modi government at centre is that of an excessive violence on the citizens on the basis of illogical claims of dominance. The whole Hindutva fascism is relying on such claims, which are only made possible into practices through the use of coercion and terror. The Sangh Parivar has been utilizing the collective conscience of the country, which has a heinous past of oppression and domination over the marginalized communities. The Savarna logic of the creation of Hindu Rashtra vehemently rests upon the unification of Hindu castes and the otherization of Muslims. The existing collective conscience is very much serving the purpose of Sangh Parivar. The Hindutwa mob lynching has been promoted through an encompassing propaganda of cultural fascism in India, which is in fact an extension of institutionalized Hindutva fascism.
The existence of ‘Collective Conscience’ roots in the nationalist historical narratives, which have been promoting the binary of ‘indigenous (Indic)’ and ‘external’(Non-Indic). Here Muslims come in the category of ‘external Other’ in the national imagination even after their an epoch-long naturalization with this landscape. In the post-independent Indian society, the presence of this ‘Muslim Other’ used to be a tool in the unification of diverse castes into the fold of larger Hindu Unity. The age-long social stratification of Hindu society in the name of ‘Jati’ made impossible an internal unification among them, which ultimately by the reason of the absence of ‘organic filaments’. The most significant characteristic of caste is that of division and collision. This perennial phenomena of internal disunity and hierarchy compels Hindutwa to find an alternative way of unification in the name of Muslims. Muslims are very much fit into this category of an ‘external Other’ with their genealogical and historical existence in India. This Otherization can be understood in the times of ‘communal riots’, which are in reality the singlehanded genocidal attempts on Muslims by the Savarna Hindutwa forces to unify Hindu vote-banks in every election. So it can be seen as political as well as social project in the Indian psyche to sideline Muslims as the ‘Other’. These common narratives are built up to facilitate the so-called ‘Collective Conscience’ of the country, which titles the Muslim as ‘Terrorist’, ‘Traitor’, ‘Communal’, ‘Fundamentalist’ etc to denote his/her mere presence in this landscape.
The issue of cow protection and consumption in India has a long historical legacy. Addressing the issue of cow ‘protection’ Kancha Ilaya observes: “In the realm of animate symbols Hindu Brahminism has projected the cow as a divine animal since Vedic times, although in Vedic religion the cow’s sanctity was due to its significance as a sacrificial offering and as the food of the sacrificers. Today they project the cow as a nationalist animal. A particular breed of white cow was the most prized Aryan food animal, which came to India along with the invading Aryan tribes in the ancient period. The Aryan Brahmins used to kill thousands of cows and bulls in the name of sacrifice, as is recorded at length in the Hindu scriptures.” So the propaganda of Gau-Rakshak contradicts historically with their claims of cow protection. The use-value of cow is only of food and cow-dung as a fertilizer and the sacred value of cow is intrinsically related with sacrifice and slaughtering.
The same logic of collective conscience applies to the emergence of Gau Rakshaks, in which the symbolism of cow- as holy animal with divine features and mythological greatness- justifies the purpose of Sangh Parivar in two ways: Otherization of Muslims and discrimination of Dalits. First it otherizes Muslims as the ‘non-vegetarian’ people with impurity, who slaughters the divine cow. For Muslims, every kind of meat is permissible on earth except the forbidden ones with its criteria of slaughtering. God has ordered in Quran: “O you who have believed, eat from the good things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship”. In this regard, Muslims have organized their life with an importance in the meat consumption of cow, buffalo, sheep, chicken, fish etc. Muslims in India have been engaging with the meat production and consumption without any restrictions throughout the ages, who are the back-born of meat economy in India. The social stratification among Muslims in India came to existence related with the slaughtering of cow and its similar animals such as Qureshi community. The propagandists of Sangh Parivar are very much aware of the powerful economical means of Muslim community, in which any communal violence against Muslims also targets financial reliance through demolition of markets, close down shops and allegations against Muslim-owned initiatives.
The second way of Sangh propaganda comes with the discrimination of Dalits, who have been suffering the brunt of Savarna Brahminical symbols and symbolism. Kancha Iliah criticizes the credibility of Sangh Parivar agendas: “The Hindutva forces argue that cow protection is a faith- and sentiment-based issue like the question of Rama’s birth at Ayodhya. Why did the cow but not the buffalo become a Hindu spiritual animal? The reason is simple: the buffalo is a black animal. Just as the Dravidians, a black people, were never granted any spiritual status, the buffalo as a black animal was allowed none. Brahminic Hindu literature projected Brahmins as Bhudevatas (Gods on earth) and the cow as Gomata (the mother animal) as it was white as well as their staple food. For generation after generation Hindu scriptures venerated Brahmins among human beings and cows among animals.” Here he compares the status of Buffalo-the most productive indigenous domestic animal in India- with that of cow. The Dalit-Bahujan communities which tend and herd cows and buffaloes are the targets of Hindutva. The Savarna Social hierarchy made Dalits in the strata of untouchability, who have been involved in the work of skinning dead animals.
While talking about the legality of cow protection and consumption, Article 48 of the constitution of India mandates the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle to preserve the animal breeds. On October 26, 2005, the Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgment upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws enacted by different state governments in India. Commenting on the contradictions of arguments of Sangh Parivar and constitutional debates, Kamal Chenoy analyzes: “The sangh parivar has long claimed beef eating to be anti-national. But their icon VD Savarkar, leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, openly supported beef eating as a cheap source of protein for the poor. Even Babasaheb Ambedkar, chief architect of the Constitution, did not oppose beef eating. In the BJP ruled state of Goa beef eating has been permitted for decades. Contrary to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s claims, the Constitution in Article 48 banned the slaughter of all bovines not just cows, including the buffalo, yak, mithun in order to preserve and improve the breeds, not for any religious reason. It is important to note that the RSS chief is only speaking of the “conservation” of cows, NOT the improvement of the breeds of cows. However, Article 48 is a Directive Principle which unlike a Fundamental Right is not binding.”
Currently 24 out of 29 states have various restrictions and regulations regarding the slaughtering and the sale of cows. Anyway, India ranks 5th in the world in beef production, 7th in domestic consumption and 1st in exporting beef products. Excitedly, most of the largest abattoirs are not owned by any Muslim or Dalit groups but only the Upper caste businessmen such as Al Kabeer Exports by Satish and Atul Sabarwal, Arabian Exports by Sunil Kapoor etc. If you look at names of their firms, you may be misunderstood of Arabic names owned normally by Muslims. But it happens consciously only to get a profitable export into the Arabian countries with the tag of ‘Halal foods’. So the issue of cow is not an issue of faith or holy cow, it is a means of terrorizing Muslims and Dalits with the aim of external and internal otherization respectively.
What comes more terrific is the excessive violence and genocidal attempts of Sangh Parivar backed Gau-Rakshak groups. This non-state and extra-judicial popular domain of Sangh Parivar is more accessible and vulnerable to promote anti-Muslim propaganda. They are acting as the patrons of cow slaughtering prohibition laws in each states and it seems they have taken the responsibility of its implementation rather than respective state governments. The Sangh Parivar has unleashed violence on the Dalit workers in Una, Gujarat, who have been working in the field of skinning dead animals. As Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan analyzes: “Without any legal sanctity or authority, these vigilante groups, patronized and sheltered by local politicians, have become a force in the State. After minorities, they have turned their eyes on Dalits now.” In recent times they are targeting both Muslims and Dalits, but the fate of Muslims is most worst including mob lynching and cold-blooded murders. Muhammad Akhlaq of Dadri, Mazlum Ansari and Imteyaz Khan of Jharkhand and most recently Pehlu Khan of Alwar are the victims of cow-terror (Gau-atankwad). They are very innocent ordinary Muslims murdered after mob lynching and execution of death penalty by Hindutva mobs. The words of Irshad, son of Pehlu Khan in Alwar testifie it: “My father was killed because he was a Muslim, and they set our Hindu driver free”. This tendency reveals explicitly the fact that Being a Muslim in our country as well his/her mere presence could invite the anguish of Hindutva mobs in the forms of mob lynching and genocide. Hence any struggle of resistance and survival must contemplate on these historical realities and the hollowness of Sangh Parivar propagandas.
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Holy Quran, Chapter No.2 Al Baqara (The Cow), Verse 172.
Ilaiah, Kancha (2004). Buffalo Nationalism: A Critique of Spiritual Fascism, Kolkata: SAMYA Publishers.
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