Banning Cow Slaughter

Bovine and Human Beings


Close on the heels of Maharashtra government's getting clearance to ban cow slaughter, there is news in a section of the press that the government in Haryana would table a similar bill in the assembly.

Sharing few snippets of the bill and comparing it with punishment of other offences, a newspaper report narrates that if the offence is insult to modesty of women, the maximum jail sentence would be one year or fine, if it is molestation then it would be two years or fine, for theft the maximum jail term would be three years, for assault it would be 3 months or fine, and for causing grievous hurt it would be maximum seven years (Times of India,  March 14, 2015) and if it is beef in any form then it would be punishable by upto ten years in jail.

Once the bill is passed by the assembly and ratified by the President, Haryana perhaps would reach number one position as far as extending punishment for this act. If for a similar act Maharashtra has stipulated 5 years punishment, MP has decided to have 7 years punishment, Haryana plans to give 10 years. People would very well remember that during campaign for assembly elections the BJP had promised to make a stringent law 'equalling cow slaughter with murder'.

Undoubtedly, Giriraj Kisnore, the octogenarian leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliated organisation of the RSS and a veteran of the Ram Janambhoomi movement, would have definitely rejoiced over this proposal about increase in quantum of punishment, in a state ruled by a fellow RSS Pracharak. He would have felt that the state is slowly inching towards 'glory of ancient India' which he had shared wiih people as far as interrelationship between bovine and human beings is concerned when the state had witnessed public lynching of five dalits by a blood-thirsty mob in Dulina, Jhajjar.

Not very many people would remember today his words when those hapless five dalits who were under police custody—who were engaged in trade in hides and were carrying a dead cow in a minitruck were brutally killed by a few hundred/ 'thousand mob of people, in the very presence of many senior officials of the police deptt as well as administration. (October 12, 2002). It was an event very much on the lines of the recent Dimapur killings and in some ways worse than it. Instead of condemning this act of lynching of fellow human beings and demanding strict action against the perpetrators and at least expressing sympathies towards the departed victims Giriraj Kishore had in an obtuse way tried to 'rationalise' this clear crime against humanity by pontificating on how religious scriputres treat human beings vis-a-vis the bovine. Perhaps his reaction motivated that many activists of different Hindutva Supremacist organisations found to be involved in committing the crime and this veteran of Ram Janambhoomi movement—who had started his social-political life as a RSS worker—wanted to send a message to the powers that be.

In any civilised country such an incident of public lynching by a mob would have generated such an uproar and anger that the police would have been forced to take immediate actions against its perpetrators and it would have also led to serious introspection on part of the rest of the society. Nothing of that sort happened. A society which is based on graded hierarchies rooted in the logic of 'purity and pollution' and which is even sanctified by the gods or the religion which people profess, one has yet to develop real sympathies for a fellow human being, if s/he is not related to one's own caste/community. In fact, this society which has witnessed larger crimes against humanity and preferred to cleverly maintain conspiracy of silence, with the perpetrators even being rewarded with positions of power and privilege. Anyone having doubts about this can as well look back at the mass killings of dalits in different parts of India or the number of communal conflgarations which people have been witness to or the deaths of innumerable adivasis and other exploited sections fighting for basic human rights on various occasions.

It is now history but important to remember that despite provisions of the SC-ST Act (Prevention of Atrocity Act 1989) which under section four talks of prosecuting government officials for their inaction, none of the officials who were mute spectators in the lynching of Dalits in Dulina, Jhajjar faced any trouble and as if to show their love for Gomata (mother cow), the first cases in this lynching were registered against the dead dalits only supposedly for 'Killing a Cow'. Later when it was discovered through medical examination that the cow was already dead, the cases were withdrawn. One still shivers to remember that the same administration even denied police protection to the families of victims who had come to take the dead bodies home for cremation stating that people are in a frenzied mood and they will not be able to protect them. And when ultimately the government in power in the state led by INLD Supremo Om Prakash Chautala (now in jail for participation in a scam) was forced to take symbolic action against people who had supposedly led the mob, then these alleged ringleaders of the crowd were accompanied by thousands of people to the nearest police station to court arrest and were projected as 'martyrs' for the cause of cow protection.

Whenever it comes to cow and its protection, none from the RSS Parivar is able to hide its fascination for 'ancient scriptures' that have denied basic human rights to majority of population and have legitimised that a microscopic minority among them derives all the privileges. People would very well remember that when Uma Bharati became Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, in the first half of last decade, one of the first steps taken by her government was banning cow slaughler which was justified by quoting ‘Manusmriti’. She had in fact promulgated an Ordinance (January 23, 2004) banning cow slaughter in the state. Explaining the rationale the official statement referred to ‘Manusmriti’ (Codes of Manu) to justify the ban which read :

"Manu Smriti ranks the slaughterer of cow as predator and prescribes hard punishment for him".

As rightly commented by Shamsul Islam : 'It was for the first time in the legal history of independent India that a law was being justified for being in tune with ‘Manusmriti’. It had no qualms in declaring its committment to Manusmriti although it very well knew that it was in contravention to the basic principles of constitution.' A look down the memory lane would even admit the fact that when the Constitution was being drafted under the Chairmanship of Dr Ambedkar, the Hindutva Right and its leaders had opposed its preparation on the specious plea that this same ‘Manusmriti’ be made independent India's new constitution.

As the state of Haryana is preparing to bring in this new legislation centering around cow, a collage of pictures just reminding this writer of the precarious situation of human rights in the state when it comes to marginalised sections of the society.

It has been more than two and half years that 45 Maruti workers are in jail,  without bail, who were arrested in the aftermath of the violence on July 18, 2012, in the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki in Haryana.

It will be exactly one year on March 23—which brought in new focus on ihe Bhagana case—which has seen protest by dalits for incidents of atrocities on Dalits in the encroachment by upper caste people on shamlat land and social boycott—since quite sometime. On March 23, 2014, 4 Dalit girls belonging to the Dhanak community were abducted, drugged and raped by a group of upper caste men in Bhagana, Haryana. The mastermind of this assault on dalil girls is still roaming free.

At the time of writing there is newsclipping which showed a Church under construction was demolished in Haryana's Hisar district and the miscreants even hoisted a flag with "Shri Ram" at the site replacing the cross.
All these incidents are mere tip of the iceberg.

One can rather go on enumerating facts and figures about the peaceful existence of denial of human dignity to large masses of people and the apathy of the state and machinery towards such cases. One should not forget that Haryana happens to be number one as far as cases of honour killings are concerned where there have been occasions when the Punjab and Haryana high courts had even prodded it to use provisions of special laws to curb the menace. It is also the state which has one of the worst sex ratios in the country underlining the fact that gendercide is occurring at frantic speed under the very eyes of the administration.

As things stand today it appears that the people in power seem to be more concerned with making the desi-videsi moneybags happy to maintain a conducive atmosphere for bringing in new investments and also catering to ‘sentiments’ of a dominant section of people around cow. It is just another way to say that while human beings will have to wait but the bovine cannot.

Vol. 47, No. 44, May 10 - 16, 2015