Importance of Cow in India
India is a land where many religions lives peacefully as secularism give no religion a complete dominance over other religion. According to the census which took place in 2011, the Hindu population of the country is 79.8 per cent of the total population. This means that most of the people living in India follow Hinduism.
For a Hindu, cow is a sacred animal. Cow is a symbol of life and they believe that they should be protected. Cow is a very generous animal and people consider that a cow gives more to the civilization that what she receives. In past killing a cow was as equal to killing a Brahmin and therefore was considered to be the biggest sin of all times.
The Vedas, which are considered to be the oldest and sacred source of literature has also mentioned cow at many instances. The oldest Veda that is the Rig Veda has mentioned a dialog between Sage Vishvamitra and two rivers, Sutlej and Beas, in which the river was compared to horses and cow. This shows that cow was considered to be a holy animal.
The cow was also associated with Aditi, the mother of all the Gods. Lord Krishna is also associated with cow. In India, we always find the image of cow almost everywhere, whether it is a shop or a temple, with garland and flowers as a sign of faith. At the time of Sanskritization, the people living lower strata gave up beef when they wanted to take a jump to higher strata of the society.
During the freedom struggle, Gandhi attempted to make a taboo against beef eating saying that the idea of non-violence is associated with cow. But contrary to this fact, he never openly asked to ban cow slaughter. Hindus are often vegetarian, a few of them has eat non-vegetarian food as well, but they could not even thing of consuming beef as a part of their diet.
The Hindu-Muslim tussle over beef
Muslim population which is spread across the world has a very less number in India. The Muslims is considered as India’s one of the largest minority group feels that they are ignore by the Government and this tussle between the Hindus and the Muslims add fuel to the existing fire.
The Bajrang Dal and the Rashytriya Swayamsevak Sangha, popularly known as RSS show has often accused the Muslims for slaughtering cows. The Muslim gets more angry as the political leaders also attain a pin drop silence over such incidences. The Hindutva movement is trying to create an environment of hate against the Muslims and the Christians.
The tussle is not only between the Hindus and the Muslims but, lower caste Hindus are also being attacked. In 2002, give lower caste Hindus were lynched for skinning a cow. In 2015, lower caste Hindus have been flogged for skinning a dead cow.
This event took place at Gujarat and the aftereffects were devastating which made the Chief Minister to resign from this office. Therefore, these events are not new, they have been a part of our society since ages and the government is more or less silent over this matter.
The Supreme Court and the High Court, in various cases, gave the verdict which often show the there is a constitutional validity of anti cow slaughter laws in different states. While we have a few states which favor the cow slaughter such as, Kerala, Assam and other north east states.
The respective states have been given powers by the Constitution under Entry 15 of the second list in the Seventh Schedule, which provides that a state will protect and preserve the cows in the manner it deem fit.
There was a judgement which proved that cow slaughter was legal according to the provisions of the Constitution. It was in May, 2016 that the judgement of the Bombay High Court came into limelight when the court said that consumption or possession of beef is valid under the Article 21 of the Constitution. The court than changed the previous verdict making it illegal to consume or possess beef in the state.
So, there are different opinions regarding the validity of consumption, possess and export of beef in different state, but a strict answer is missing. This is because maximum population of the country has a soft corner for cows and hurting their sentiments means inviting violence within the boundaries.
The Beef Ban
The Bharatiya Janta Party, the ruling party of the country with Mr. Narendra Modi serving the people as the Prime Minister, has been very kind to cow as they ban beef in many parts of the country. The cow which is a Symbol of non violence has found a space in today’s politics. Today beef is one of the biggest political issues and if not handled wisely, this little issue has the power to bring to create havoc in the society.
The government, today has increased the punishment for transporting the beef. Trading beef is on the hit list. We have heard about lynching which are taking place in different part of the country. Many of such acts occur even when there is mere suspicion. The innocent people are killed only on the grounds of suspicion.
The restaurants are not allowed to serve beef. The people who are the part of the Bajrang Dal and the Rashytriya Swayamsevak Sangha get empowered when the ministers of government openly disapprove beef eating.
When the Bharatiya Janta Party came into power at the State of Uttar Pradesh, the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath has ordered to shut the slaughter shops in the state.
The population of Uttar Pradesh is consists of Muslims and because of this ban, there is shortage of meat to meet the demands of the people. Here a question pops up in our minds, whether shutting down these shops was done to force people to adopt a vegetarian diet?
An Act Against Secularism
The entire concept of beef ban is against the virtue of secularism as it supports the Hindu ideologies and the Muslims and the people belonging to the lower strata feels neglected. Therefore, this policy of Government can prove to be harmful in the long run.
The idea of ban of slaughter of cow was also raised when the leaders were working hard for framing our constitution. The liberals oppose the demands of banning the beef as they believed that India will be a secular state and not a Hindu state. Banning beef will harm the sentiments of the minority who consume beef, as this minority has equal right as that of majority.
The matter is capable of dividing Hindus and Muslims, and the country has already experienced the effects of such division. Therefore, cow slaughter in a secular country like India which has vast diversity is unjustified. The Hindus lost the battle at the time when the Constitution was written but they are winning the battle now with the leadership of the most beloved Prime Minister.
Effects upon the lives of the people & Punishments
The law in the beautiful valley that is the State of Jammu and Kashmir, against the beef is very rigid and strict. A person found guilty of such offence can be punished with an imprisonment for minimum 10 years. The situation in Jharkhand is no different; the quantum of punishment in the valley and in the state of Jharkhand is the same.
The government has banned the slaughter houses in the Uttar Pradesh, the punishment for killing or storing beef is 7 years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs. 10,000 or with both. Lynching activities are common in this state. Apart from all this strictness, the government was liberal enough to accept the import of beef in sealed containers only to the foreigners and buffalo are allowed for consumption for citizens.
Two men in Haryana were captured while transporting beef and they were brutally treated and were forced to consume cow dung and urine. The law of Haryana also prohibits killing those cows that are disabled or diseased.
The laws of other states and the crises which certain innocent people face are somewhat similar in every state. The duration of imprisonment of the extent of fine may vary, but there is surety that punishment will inflict upon those who consume or trade beef.
There are certain instances in the Rig Veda, where cow and bullocks were sacrificed on special occasion. Aapastanba Grishsutram once said that the cow should be slaughtered on the arrival of a guest on different occasions. Vashishta Dharmasutra once said that a Brahmin cannot refuse to eat the meat served to him on the occasion of Shraadha, if they do so they will deserve a place in the hell.
Swami Vivekanand said that according to Hindu beliefs and rituals a man can never be termed as a good Hindu if he does not consume beef. They are only a few sayings from the past which supports the slaughter of beef. But as we developed we became more orthodox.
We saw and understood things which were never shown or said. We gave more importance that Veda promotes worship of cows and we completely ignored the events when cows were sacrificed and beef was consumed even by Brahmins. This is because we never educate the people that there are events in history when the Brahmins also consumed beef.
We live in a secular country and leaning towards the sentiments of Hindu did not justice to the title of secularism. Though, cow is pious animal and majority of population worship this holy creature, this does not mean that we should ignore the minority population who likes consuming beef.
Laws should be made by which a middle path could be followed. This middle path is quite difficult to achieve but not impossible like those cows could be consumed who are ill or good for nothing. This is just one solution we need to find various ways by which this middle path could be achieved otherwise the conflict between the Hindus and the Muslims will reach at a great height.