Holy Cow as a Political Dish – Jawed Naqvi

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A woman worships a cow as Indian Hindus offer prayers to the River Ganges, holy to them during the Ganga Dussehra festival in Allahabad, India, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Allahabad on the confluence of rivers the Ganges and the Yamuna is one of Hinduism’s holiest centers. AP/Rajesh Kumar Singh
A woman worships a cow as Indian Hindus offer prayers to the River Ganges, holy to them during the Ganga Dussehra festival in Allahabad, India, Sunday, June 8, 2014. Allahabad on the confluence of rivers the Ganges and the Yamuna is one of Hinduism’s holiest centers. AP/Rajesh Kumar Singh

JAWED NAQVI

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]r Shrinivas Pandey is a Malayalam-speaking Ayurvedic physician from Varanasi. The genial Brahmin doctor has what you would call shifa, the healing touch. That means fix your appointment days before he can meet you at his Delhi clinic. The doctor wants me to shun red meat, yoghurt, sugar and urad lentil to comply with his prescription for a breathing disorder, part of the wages of working in Delhi.

I find no problem in following the advice not the least because I don’t care for milk products anyway. I am convinced they constitute unnatural food. No other species steals another’s milk.

Grain too was made by nature for rodents and birds. If you ate a fistful of uncooked wheat or rice you would land in the hospital, not the birds. When a famished India got an emergency shipment of wheat from the United States in the 1960s, rats ate up half of it.

As for sugar it is so unnatural that Indians eyed it with suspicion and even issued religious edicts against it when the British introduced it in India in the 19th century. Fruit and meat and whatever vegetables can be had without fire are natural food.

That’s how milk, sugar and grains such as wheat and rice often get the red flag from your doctor. Lactose allergies, diabetes, gluten allergies are common. Have you heard of meat allergy? No. You can have revulsion to meat but that’s not allergy.

It’s your upbringing. Seafood, which can trigger fatal reactions in humans was in all likelihood not meant for them.

True, red meat after the age of 50 can raise issues about cholesterol. Therefore, if anyone wanted to seriously discourage Indians from eating beef a discussion about alternative sources of cheap protein could be considered. The poorer lot are the ones who consume the biggest quantities of cheap beef in India. The red flag about red meat doesn’t apply to them. They are poor so they work harder. And physical work neutralises the negatives that come with a combination of sedentary work and red meat.


If India’s vegetarian men and women could start getting gold medals at the Olympics that would be a good advertisement for giving up meat.


But who wants to change anyone’s food habits? If anything there are those that seek a communal mobilization using people’s eating habits. Some cooked up a campaign about the obscure Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and they reaped rich dividends. They wouldn’t have taken any mosque peacefully. How did business tycoon Mukesh Ambani get priceless land for his fabulous house in Mumbai from the waqf? He got it for a pittance. But that strategy wouldn’t have suited Hindutva in Ayodhya. Likewise, the cow has been put in the bubbling communal cauldron.

The point is that there could be several ways to argue about the food habits of people. If India’s vegetarian men and women could become good athletes and start getting gold medals at the Olympics that would be a good advertisement for giving up meat. Chinese champions get all the medals without fussing about what to eat.

I quietly tried everything gory on offer in China and Korea during a prime ministerial visit. It annoyed the Brahmin media advisor to the Indian leader. The official feared a scandal if someone came to know about me eating “all those things”. I told him to focus on improving Sino-Indian ties. Anyway beef is not my preferred food, a conditioning that probably came with my birth in Lucknow. No Muslim family served beef in the city, a habit linked to Wajid Ali Shah’s rule before he was overthrown in a colonial regime change in 1857.

I don’t wish to get involved in a discussion about the religious logic of banning beef. Votaries of Hindutva are adamant that Hindus never killed cows and those who do hurt their sentiments. Hindutva’s early ideologue Guru Golwakar accused Muslims and Christians of introducing beef-eating in India. He had no clue about history for it was he who wrote that the North Pole was located on the border of Bihar and Orissa before shifting to its current location. Thus the Aryans (Hindus) became sons of the soil. The rest are foreigners.

Romila Thapar, R.S. Sharma and D.N. Jha are respected the world over for their rigour as historians and they have shown beef was eaten in ancient ceremonies. That’s not my case though. I don’t wish to laud as secular the fact that some Mughals banned beef. Then Narendra Modi too must be secular. He too wants to ban beef-eating.

In my view neither Akbar nor Bahadur Shah Zafar who opposed cow slaughter cared for India’s poor. The newly decorated Bharat Ratna Atal Behari Vajpayee may have stayed for all of 13 days as prime minister in 1996, but he promptly promised a ban on cow slaughter. If the Mughals translated the Upanishads or Mahabharat or Ramayan into Persian they did so to stay in their comfort zone with India’s Hindu elite. They criminalised beef-eating without fixing a politically correct food menu for India’s poor who include Muslims and Christians. Both communities remain in the cross hairs of Hindutva’s communal agenda.

What is the Dalit take on the cow controversy? Ram Vilas Paswan is a Dalit leader currently in the Modi cabinet. I went with him to Aligarh some years ago, where he said something noteworthy. “The Brahmins say the cow is like their mother. But when that mother (cow) dies they get a chamaar (Dalit) to carry the carcass. Would they allow the chamaar to touch their actual mother?”

Finally, Hindutva leaders should visit New Zealand. The red deer population the European settlers brought there became a runaway nuisance and they had to be culled en masse. Imagine the plight of India’s holy cow when drought comes calling as it often does. The thought gives me the wheeze. Courtesy Dawn

theclarionindia
theclarionindiahttps://clarionindia.net
Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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