For the cow (but not) by the cow
By Dr. George Jacob.
Kochi Right from my childhood, I have been intrigued by the cow’s widely believed ‘sacred’ place in Hinduism. To add to my bewilderment, some Hindus refrained from eating beef, vehemently, (and some even militantly, as witnessed of late), while some others consumed it with gay abandon, as if they were hinged to life through the meat.
Is cow a Hindu God? Do Hindus actually worship the animal?
Whatever, being a Christian (by virtue of birth and nothing else), I grew up eating everything. I must have, till date easily consumed a cow and also a buffalo since birth. Beef was consumed very frequently at home, like any Christian household in Kerala.
At the mess at Medical college hostel, where I spent close to six years, beef was served twice daily, round the year. In those days, beef was the cheapest meat available. Personally, beef has never been my favorite meat — primarily because the fibrous meat would adamantly park itself in every available space between my teeth, something which I abhor.
This used to have me spend considerable time enticing the animal stuck between my teeth with toothpicks, and various other ingenious objects. I am a diehard ‘fishetarian’. I relish fish. This is because I grew up in the coastal city of Cochin, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where fish was as abundant as rain of the 1960s, and also because my father’s business was seafood export. This ensured abundant stock of seafood at home.
It is more than ten years since I’ve eaten beef, primarily for health reasons (beef is the unhealthiest red meat, which is most unkind to the cardiovascular system). Moreover, I was felled by a massive stroke at 39, which further limited my association with beef, and meat in general. Admittedly I consume lots of curd, having given up entirely on milk.
That sums up my relationship with the cow.
Of late, certain developments from within the cowshed, other than the animal getting in between my teeth disturbed me greatly, as an ordinary Indian.
• A Muslim, Mohamed Akhlaq was beaten to death and his 22-year old son severely injured in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, allegedly by residents of Bisara village, after rumors spread in the area about the family storing and consuming beef.
• Another Muslim, Pehlu Khan was assaulted by ‘vigilantes’ over suspicion of cow smuggling in Alwar in Rajastan. The man later died in hospital.
• RSS Chief Mohan Bagwat has called for a national legislation on cow protection (and not on manslaughter; mind you!)
• The newly elected Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adithyanath, a Hindu priest set the administration rolling by closing down ‘unlicensed’ outlets trading in beef in the state. Even licensed stores were shut down on flimsy grounds such as the stores lacking CCTVs! promptly, buffalo meat production fell by 40% and mutton by 30% in UP, driving meat traders into great deal of uncertainty and insecurity.
• A caste Panchayat of the Banjara community in Guna district in Madhya Pradesh ordered a man, jagdish Banjara to get his seven-year old daughter married to an eight-year old boy as punishment for killing a calf three years ago. The man had already been ‘punished’ when the crime was committed three years back. He was ordered to bathe in the Ganga at Allahabad and host a grand non-vegetarian feast for the entire community in his village of Tarpur, 225 km from Bhopal!(probably there’s nothing wrong in spreading a non-vegetarian feast when served as ‘punishment’!)
• Seven members of a Dalit family in Gujarat’s Una town involved in leather trading were attacked and brutally assaulted. Four of them were stripped half naked, tied to a car and dragged for about a kilometer and then beaten up with rods and sticks. Their crime? They were found skinning the carcass of a cow brought from a neighboring village by self-proclaimed gau rakshaks.
• Right here in Kerala, just three days ago, the Aluva West police registered a case against 14 persons who trespassed into a house at Karakunnu, a suburb of Cochin and threw mud in the beef curry prepared as part of Easter celebration, in protest against slaughtering a calf there. Police said the accused barged into the residence of Biju and disrupted Ester celebrations. Biju and his friends had slaughtered a calf in the house on Easter day.
What’s people’s beef about others consuming beef? I wonder.
So I went on a fact-finding mission. I wanted to get to bottom of the cow and beef issue and why it is increasingly being considered lucky to be born a cow in India of 2017, than as a human being.
I searched the Google, as any person in 2017 would do to seek information.
Google tells me in Hinduism, THE COW IS CONSIDERED SACRED, OR DEEPLY RESPECTED. HINDUS DO NOT WORSHIP COWS, although THEY ARE HELD IN HIGH ESTEEM! The reason seemed to be the cow’s agricultural uses and its gentle nature. Hindus rely heavily on cows for dairy products, for tilling fields and for dung as a source of fuel and fertilizer. So, THE COW IS SEEN AS A CARETAKER OR MATERNAL FIGURE. One Hindu Goddess is shown in the form of a cow: Bhoomi. She represents the Earth.
MOST HINDUS RESPECT THE COW FOR ITS GENTLE NATURE, representing the main teaching of Hinduism, which is ‘do no harm to an animal’ (ahimsa) – the cow has fallen short to instill ahimsa towards fellow citizens in its adorers, evidently. The cow also represents Butter (ghee) and strength. THE COW IS HONORED IN SOCIETY. In the Hindu tradition, the cow is honored, garlanded, and given special feed at festivals. One such is the Gopastami, dedicated to Lord Krishna and cows. The cow’s nature is represented in Kamadhenu, the Goddess who is the mother of all cows. In India more than 3,000 institutions called gaushalas care for old and infirm cows. According to the Animal Husbandry statistics, there are about 44,900,000 cows in India, the highest in the world. While old and infirm cows are housed in the Gaushalas, the rest are generally abandoned at public places like railway stations, bazaars and thoroughfares.
HONORING THE COW INSPIRES IN PEOPLE THE VIRTUES OF GENTLENESS AND CONNECTS THEM WITH NATURE-the cow has badly failed in that department too, evidently! The cow gives milk, cream, yogurt, cheese, butter and ghee.cow dung is used as fertilizer, fuel and a disinfectant in homes.
In ancient India, oxen and bulls were sacrificed to Gods and their meat was eaten. But even then, the slaughter of milk producing cows was prohibited. VERSES OF THE RIGVEDA, REFER TO THE COW AS DEVI (GODDESS). Even when meat eating was permitted, the ancient vedic scriptures encouraged vegetarianism. One scripture says ‘there is no sin in eating meat….. But abstention brings great rewards’. The cow continued to be especially revered and protected among the animals in India. By the early centuries AD, the cow was designated as the appropriate gift to the Brahmans (high caste priests) it was considered that to kill a cow equates to killing a Brahman.
The importance of the pastoral element in the Krishna stories, particularly from the 10th century onwards, further reinforced the sanctity of the cow.
THE COW REMAINS A PROTECTED ANIMAL IN HINDUISM TODAY AND HINDUS DO NOT EAT BEEF-IDEALLY. By imposing this ‘do not eat beef’ edict, have the rightwing religiopolitical outfits, with the blessing of the government in the centre set themselves on the road to actualize a long-cherished dream- That of coining a Uniform Civil Code? Is the UCC starting with cows? Then, is it not worth sacrificing the gentle cow for implementation of the UCC? Well……
Still, dissatisfied with the information Google could afford, I talked to some of my Hindu colleagues. One of them took me to the Maurian period of Indus valley civilization. She confused me even further. Why be bothered about Indus valley civilization, which is history, what about the common man who shares the street in the India of the 21st century with those emaciated beasts we all call cow?
I’m going to be a bit selfish here. Personally, I care a damn if beef is banned in this country, as I’ve stopped consuming it. But, I’ll be in trouble big time, were matsya rakshaks were to come up with the theory that matsya or fish is the avatar of Hindu God Vishnu, and therefore should not be consumed in the country! You see, anything is possible in the 20th century India!
I’ll be disappointed if my freedom to eat fish whenever I wish to, in whatever form, is taken away from me just because some crazy bigots consider fish their God or whatever. It would pain me more spiritually than physically if fellow countrymen pounce on me for eating fish (God forbid). if I stop eating fish, then what will I live on? I have no hesitation to turn to pure vegetarianism. But eating vegetables these days amounts to succumbing to Organophosphorus poisoning!
No Indian is going to die because he/she is denied beef on the dining table. But the basic issue here is that being denied beef for whatever reason, infringes on an individual’s liberty to consume whatever he/she chooses to, except probably human beings.
An Indian simply cannot nail his beliefs, be it religious, social, historical or whatever on another and dictate the latter’s dietary preferences, of all things.
More importantly, and factually, the government of the day exists on the support and blessings of rabid and indoctrinated, mischief mongering outfits like the RSS. These outfits want insignificant and peripheral issues that simply have no bearing on rule of law in India to be actualized, one of them being ban on cow slaughter. They care two hoots for industries such as leather, on which depends livelihood of scores of Indians, most of them Dalits, if cows are no more to be used in India other than for respecting and revering. The BJP-led NDA maintains uncomfortable silence on a serious issue such as ban on beef and all that it begets. An extremely vocal Prime Minister at election campaigning and rallies choose to speak not a word on cow vigilantes and their habit of taking law into their unconstitutional hands, meant to divide India usunder along gastronomical lines. The nation needs more important issues like women’s safety, manslaughter, education for all including the girl child, affordable quality health care for all, as also potable drinking water, electricity, motorable roads for every citizen. Good governance amounts to providing basic amenities like the above said to citizens, and not to ensure safety of the nation’s cattle and other animals, except maybe the endangered ones. The government would have done well if it existed for the welfare of a billion Indians, and not 44,900,000 cows that languishes and loiters about in India as relics made of just skin and bone, with none to care for, that slaughtering them would surely amount to euthanasia!
The government must please untie the cow from the manger of electoral politics, where cheap populism sells like fresh cow dung!
People need to be wary not to be mistaken or hoodwinked by the drama that talks about the love of a particular community for cows. The gentle animal is only a vote- vending machine. To numerous things the cow is supposed to provide, votes too has found a place among that list! Where do crocodile tears of these gau raksaks disappear when bulls are used in a sport that is extremely cruel to the animal like Jallikettu in Tamil Nadu? Are Hindus only concerned about the female of the bovine species, and not the males? That’s being unfair and feminist too! The so-called gaurakshaks know for sure that no gimmick of theirs’ would sell in Tamil Nadu, where citizens of that state would not care to even die to uphold Tamil culture and pride, which comes over and above religious or other reasons to hold back those hapless animals from the cruel sport. The gau rakshaks know very well that the numerous arenas of Tamil Nadu are by no means their playing ground; so much so for their gau bakthi!
Where and why do the so-called gaurakshaks hide when emaciated and cachectic ‘animals’ that can only be presumed to be cows from the sounds and dung they produce, roam about uncared for across the length and breadth of this cow-loving nation?
It can be safely concluded that cows are just vote-vending machine these days like you and me.
It’s time to call this bluff of the BJP-led NDA ruling at New Delhi.
The government of the day clearly having shoved issues that really matter to bolster the nation’s development to the trashcan, and seems to be concerned only about the welfare of cows these day, can verily claim as being ‘a government of the cows, for the cows and (not yet) ‘by the cows’. Why not ‘by the cows’, yet? Because cows have no right to vote. Not yet. By the look of things, cows could very well be towed to polling booths soon to have their votes cast by pressing on the EVMs(Electronic Voting Machines)of course those with VVPAT(Voter verified Paper Audit Trail), just in case-with their hooves!
The crux is: let those who do not want to eat beef abstain from consuming the meat. But, for god’s sake, let those who want to consume it be permitted to, instead of creating a loud hue and cry over an issue that will only serve to fracture the plurality of India if allowed to fester.
LIVE AND LET LIVE!