Being Human in Bovine Land – Subhash Gatade


Several states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat have banned cow slaughter. Maharashtra is the latest state to put in place such a ban. PTI
Several states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat have banned cow slaughter. Maharashtra is the latest state to put in place such a ban. PTI

How BJP-ruled states are vying with each other to realize the India of Hindutva’s dreams 


”In our religious scriptures ( Puranas) life of a cow is more important than any number of people” ( Puranon me insaan se jyada gay ko mahtv diya jata hai)

– Giriraj Kishore, Vice President of VHP, on the public lynching of five Dalits, in October 2002

 BJP Haryana chief Ram Bilas Sharma has promised to treat cow slaughter as a crime as heinous as murder. If  elected, he said at the manifesto release function…

  Times of India | Oct 3, 2014

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is a competition of sorts between BJP ruled states to fulfill what a Haryana leader said ‘Modiji’s dream’. 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 tells us 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, 14 th March 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, M.P. 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 Kishore, (1920-2014) 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 with 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. (12 th October, 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 ‘rationalize’ this clear crime against humanity by pontificating on how religious scriptures treat human beings vis-a-vis the bovine. Perhaps his reaction had also do with the fact that many activists of different Hindutva Supremacist organisations were 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 civilized 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, we have yet to develop real sympathies for a fellow human being, if s/he is not related to one’s own caste/community.

In fact, our is a 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 n number of communal conflagrations which we have been witness to or the deaths of innumerable adivasis (tribals) 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. ( ‘Jhajjar me Daliton ki Hatya, PUDR, April 2003)

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.

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Anyone conversant with the trajectory of the Hindutva right in this country would tell you that whenever it comes to cow and its protection, none from the RSS Parivar is able to hide its fascination for ‘ancient scriptures’. All those scriptures  have denied basic human rights to majority of population and have legitimized 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 slaughter 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 Manu Smriti (Codes of Manu) to justify the ban which read:

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

Commenting on the incident Prof Shamsul Islam said : ‘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 commitment 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 tell you that when the Constitution was being drafted under the Chairmanship of Dr Ambedkar, the Hindutva rights and its leaders had opposed its preparation on the specious plea that this same Manusmriti be made independent India’s new constitution.

The Haryana government is preparing to bring in this new legislation centring around cow, and a collage of pictures just flipped before my mind’s eye reminding me of the precarious situation of human rights in the state when it comes to marginalized sections of our society.

It has been more than two and half years that 145 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 23 rd March which brought in new focus on the Bhagana case – which has seen protest by dalits for incidents of atrocities on them , encroachment by upper caste people on shamlat land and social boycott – since quite some time. On 23rd March 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 dalit girls is still roaming free.

As we go to the press there is news clipping 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 life human dignity to large masses of people and the apathy of the state and its vast machinery towards them. We should not forget that Haryana happens to be no one as far as cases of honor 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.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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