We are Indians. We revere our beloved animal, cow, or Gau-mata, as she is fondly known. We definitely do not believe in cow-slaughter, and prohibition of cow slaughter is a Directive Principle of State Policy. But what about those Indians, who do not create public nuisance and are law-abiding citizens, but for whom, beef is food? Does a butcher lose his Indianness when he slits our revered animal? Do the artisans whose livelihoods depend on the carcasses that provide them leather, stop being Indians the moment they join the industry? We are a secular nation, or atleast it is mentioned in the Constitution. I mean, the amendment that inserted that word in the Constitution is known as a ‘Mini Constitution’. So I always thought it was important for the country to have secular beliefs. But things are far from secular.
I am not advocating cow, or cattle, or animal slaughter. I am merely pointing out the dichotomy that we are faced with when such issues crop up. Perhaps I’ll view things from a different, emotional perspective if I were ever to witness a cow getting slaughtered, but I may also change my opinion if I ever see artisans and their families dying of starvation. Families whose lives and occupations depend on the cows. It is a really ironic situation in a country which boasts of everything that is there in letter, but never in spirit. We call it hypocrisy in common parlance, don’t we? We have Article 19 to protect our freedom of speech and expression, but ‘BAN’ is probably a word that is as easy to use as it is to spell. There are many other things that are written in our Directive Principles of State Policy, but the most widely talked about principle is something that is contradictory to the very notion of secularism. If cow slaughter was a priority, it should have been made a priority a long time back, and not now, when 80 percent of the country consumes non-vegetarian. And in order to achieve the goal of eradication of cow slaughter, India should have been a ‘Hindu’ State, instead of a ‘Secular’ State. That would have atleast made things simpler. It was easier to implement at the time of partition, because the two-nation theory was being practically given shape to. But we chose to be the ‘ideal’ State, and now we are facing the consequences of viewing everything through rose-coloured glasses.
Everyone is aware of the fact that beef gets sold, and eaten. I admit that the first time I came to know about the fact that Hindus also consume beef, I was shocked. I was about 18 years old, and not open minded. But I now realise that the fuss over somebody’s dressing sense or food habits never goes anywhere. It is a sheer waste of time. I myself have weird choices when it comes to food, but I sometimes stick to them, and sometimes I go with the other person’s choice. These are individual choices that everyone makes, and I do not think that the State should intervene. There is an utter lack of ‘Constitutionalism’ in a nation which boasts of having the lengthiest Constitution in the world. Instead of focussing on larger issues, issues concerning people’s food habits have taken centrestage. Livestock is a State subject, otherwise the Centre would have come up with a law to ban cow slaughter countrywide. Camels and goats are also slaughtered in the country, why is the cow to be given special treatment? I think all animals should be equally respected, if it is a question of respect. I wonder if these things are even discussed in other nations. There is a difference between poaching an animal and slaughtering an animal for commercial purposes. This is the reason why the ‘pink revolution’ is at the very least, debatable in a country like India, where majority is composed of Hindus, but the other side of the same coin is: the majority is also composed of people who relish non-vegetarian food, inclusive of beef.
There are some issues in our country where gathering consensus is a momentous task: LGBT rights, cow slaughter, euthanasia, surrogacy, etc. Euthanasia and Surrogacy may need laws, but the former two may do without any legislation. Who a person dates, who a person marries, what a person eats, and how a person dresses are all subjective. These are mere preferences, which can change from time to time, or may undergo no change at all. The State is not supposed to intervene in private matters, unless it creates public nuisance or disrupts public order. That’s where things should start and things should end. These small, individualistic decisions signify decision-making in a ‘democratic’ country because unfortunately, fighting for these things is the price that people pay in the largest democracy of the world. It is not something to be dismissed, especially in the wake of the fact that the leather industry has been identified as a priority sector for the Make in India campaign. It is a very serious issue. No one else is as intimately connected with these cows and bulls as these artisans are. Maybe that’s why those self-effacing Gau-matas and bulls sacrifice their lives for those living in penury. Gau-mata ki Jai!