Politics of cows

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By: Buyamayum Liyaquat Ali

Indian Muslims are used by both the two main political parties of India as their vote bank. Unfortunately, cow plays an important role in their politics. Everyone knows the holiness of cows to the Hindu community but using cows as a political tool will have a repulsive impact in Indian society. The British government ordered Indian sepoys to open greased cartridges of cow and pig fat to test their obedience. The act insulted both Hindu and Muslim religious practices and it became a reason of the 1857 British-India rebellion. Mixing religion with politics will affect the communal harmony of our society and it may cause rebellion or communal violence in the future.

The present Indian government is scoring several political points from the politics of cow. They are appeasing Hindu voters and holding Muslim voters simultaneously by amplifying the issue of cow protection. Let us analyze an incident of how the BJP government is scoring political points from the issue of cow protection. Inspite of having the prevention of cruelty to animals act, 1960 and many other laws for animals protection, the Manipur government issued a notification for animals protection by mentioning Bakra-eid on the eve of this festival. Many Manipuri Muslim NGOs shout on the top of their voice as if they are fighting a fire for Muslim community for a notification issued probably aiming at the upcoming Manipuri Assembly election in early 2022. Since a majority of the population of Manipur are omnivores, it will not have a large political impact on other communities except Muslim voters. Muslim voters are irked by certain policies of the central BJP government. By issuing the notification Manipur government is showing to central government that they are following their steps. And on the other hand, they are holding Manipuri Muslim voters. The notification may not apply wholeheartedly by the Manipur government and their candidates will say that the ideology of the Manipur BJP government is different from the BJP government at the Centre to woo the Muslim voters.

Politics of cow can be observed all over the country. Indifferent parts of the country the central government attracts Hindu voters by boosting their sentiments on cow protection and individual candidates may act as savior from cow-related violence to hold Muslim voters. Beef is freely available in states like Goa, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, etc Tripura. Many of these states are ruled by BJP. Anyone can find beef meat in all major cities of India. Recent data by the United States Department of Agriculture indicates that India was the fourth-largest exporter of beef and veal including water buffalo during the first quarter of 2021. If the Iron hand of central BJP government wants a complete ban on cow slaughter, it is only a matter of few months. Then why they aren’t doing so?

Creating a psychosis of fear against the Muslim community to appease Hindu voters will only derail the real issue of cow protection. In October 2019 I went to Jamnagar, Gujarat, the home state of our present Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I was there for a professional course and stayed in a hotel near Jamnagar railway station. My training site was around 15 km far from the hotel and I travelled the distance everyday by bus. On the way from my hotel to the training site, there were many cows roaming on the streets of Jamnagar blocking roads and causing traffic jam. When I asked one of the local people about the roaming cows he told me that the cows were abandoned by Muslim owners due to fear of violence from various cow protection groups in that area. After few days I saw a dead cow near my hotel probably she might have died due to food poisoning. The intention of narrating my trip is that if the government really wants to protect cows why they are allowing abandoned cows to roam on the streets and let them die? Is the government protecting cows or destroying them for political mileage?

There are many options of Qurbani, the religious tradition of the Muslim community, other than a cow but don’t play politics in the name of cows. If the government wants to ban the slaughter of cows, ban it permanently without any politicization. Many precious human lives have been lost due to cow-related violence in India. India is a multi-religious society, respecting the sentiments of others is laudable but respect, peace, and communal harmony cannot come with the threat of mass violence on an entire community and cow protection cannot be maintained at gunpoint. (The author is an ex-Navy & an RTI activist based in Mayang Imphal, Manipur)

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