One man’s meat is another man’s poison. The English adage goes back at least five centuries but the same idiom existed two thousand years ago in Rome. As long as more than two humans have been around there have been fierce disagreements over everything including food. So when we take up the issue of the BJP-ruled states starting to extend and deepen existing bans on cow and calf slaughter to bulls, we are not disputing the merits or demerits of beef eating or even the right of every Indian citizen to have freedom to eat or not eat what they choose, though that too is at issue.
We are concerned about, first, the constitutionality of these new pieces of legislation; then, about the logic or rationale of these new laws and, finally, their impact on the majority, the Bahujans. I only agreed to go ahead with this Cover Story when I was convinced that it was not just a freedom-of-food-choice issue. Important as it is – and FORWARD Press has reported on the various “beef festivals” from Hyderabad all the way to JNU, New Delhi – if that’s all it was about, FP did not need to take it up. Enough secular liberal newsmagazines have already done so.
However, Professor Anirudh Deshpande, no stranger to our readers, has covered all the bases in this his first Cover Story for FP. He has shown the inconsistencies and even contradictions between two clauses of the Directive Principles of the Constitution pertaining to cattle and the environment. He then goes on to show how the new laws will end up defeating the very objectives they set out supposedly to accomplish. Finally, and most convincingly, how these laws hurt not only the beef-eating minorities – Muslims and Christians (17 per cent) – but also the SCs and STs (25 per cent), who, if not all beef-eaters, often depend on the trade for their livelihood. Above all, it is the predominantly OBC farmers (33 per cent?) who will suffer because they are unable to sell their aged bullocks and afford new younger ones.
I have heard interviews with OBC farmers in Maharashtra. One was running from pillar to post, from one cattle fair to another, trying to sell his aged bullocks in vain. He cannot afford to buy a new pair of bullocks that will get his work done, while he cannot afford to keep feeding the older and now retired animals. In desperation, he cries, “I am a vegetarian but if the government thinks it is doing this for me, it is only killing me, my family and my older bullocks!” Once I heard that, I knew that these Jain-inspired brahmanical laws designed to polarize society is actually hurting the Bahujans.
When well-intentioned people with money talk of starting more gaushalas (there are barely enough for aged cows, let alone for the retired bulls) or the Delhi High Court rules that exotic birds have fundamental rights to “live with dignity” while thousands of farmers commit suicide (mainly because of the lack of affordable crop insurance) one begins to see the outcome of the dictum: a people cannot rise above that which they worship. For Bahujans, it seems this society does not even consider the right to “die with dignity” as fundamental. That is left to Mother Teresa and her sisters, who are then criticized by the RSS as being a motivated charity!
Until next month … Truthfully,
Published in the June 2015 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine