Cattle as Reason

The Centre’s decision to ban the sale of cattle in livestock markets for slaughter has not only intefered with the right of  choice of food by citizens, but has done immense damage to the leather industry. If there is a ban on slaughter of cows and buffaloes, leather will be patently in short supply and tanneries will close down. Over the last three decades, India’s leather industry has grown steadily and has changed from a mere supplier of raw materials to a provider of finished goods, and it provides employment and livelihood to hundreds of thousands of people. Exports of cattle meat also fetch huge amounts of foreign exchange. If leather for the making of shoes has to be imported from abroad, this is certain to strain severely India’s foreign exchange resources and raise the cost of shoes astronomically. Of course, the so-called cow vigilantes who have been lynching cattle-traders and getting away with impunity, thanks to the fascist Modi-Amit Shah combine and their acolytes, have no regard for the state of the economy and do not bother to consider how many jobs will be lost. They only want to punish Muslims, dalits and Christians. The leather industry is concentrated in West Bengal, UP, and Tamil Nadu and most, although not all, of the owners of the tanneries are Muslims by faith.  That is precisely why the centre has desperately imposed the ban. It remains to be seen whether and how far it succeeds in tackling the adverse reactions that has begun to spread all over the country and is likely to gather momentum in the days to come. Calling any dissent anti-national is already going to be out of fashion.

The second pertinent question is:  if cow protection is accepted in principle, who will protect the cows? Excluding milch cows, the number of cows in this country will be around 120 millions and feeding all of them would cost, according to a conservative estimate, more than Rs one trillion a year. Is the centre prepared to bear this huge cost? Obviously there is no answer, because Narendra Modi has acquired immense expertise in evading embarrassing questions and also because the Sangh Parivar does not believe in answering questions, but in lying and roaring, and whenever necessary, beating and lynching.

The latest verdict by a judge of the Rajasthan High Court, delivered on 31 May, expecting the government to declare the cow a “national animal” is as amusing as it is astonishing and, leaving aside the question of constitutional properiety,betrays an ignorance of history as well of the present. The learned judge has found it convenient to forget that in today’s India, bullock-power, or for that matter, animal power, has a very small role to play in agriculture. He possibly does not know that in ancient India, beef was a favourite dish of food to Brahmin sages. He has even referred to Nepal as a Hindu state, although this label has been removed in the wake of the ouster of the monarchy, and Nepal now has a new Constitution and is a secular democracy. Likening the cow to the ‘mother’, as the venerable judge has done, is equally hypocritical, because those who consider eating the flesh of ‘go-mata’ an impious act never show any posthumous respect to their own cows when these cows die, far from cremating them in the way their own mothers are cremated. These dead cows are usually left in charge of low caste people.

It has to be understood that phenomena like aggressive attitude towards the people of Kashmir, killing of Muslims and even rationalists, atrocities on dalits, frantic attempts at Hindu-Muslim polarisation, the new legislation — all these are chains of a single network, parts of the project of building up a Brahminical (and fanatical) Hindu state and of covering the failures on the economic front, which are now too transparent to be ruled out. The principal advantage of Modi is the disjointed nature of the opposition, who are more interested in petty gains than in combating the new fascism. The assembly polls in Assam and UP and the municipal polls in Delhi have proved this point beyond doubt. The new fascism thrives on Goebblesian lying, backed by the media owned by the big corporate houses. But the major opposition parties seem to lack enough bones and muscles to counter  it.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gave importance to cooperative federalism during the 2014 parliamentary polls but through a number of autocratic decrees, the ‘cattle ban notification’ being the latest one, it has virtually reduced states to ‘‘municipalities’’ and chief ministers to ‘‘municipal chiefs.’’

Vol. 49, No.49, Jun 11 - 17, 2017