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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Op-ed: Future of Muslims in India

The future of Muslims in India seems bleak as RSS ideology spreads within the nation. Spreading Hindu nationalism could jeopardize the lives of religious minorities in India

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh wants to covert Ayudhya into a Vatican, a Mecca. He wants to re-name Moghal Museum in Agra after Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. He rubbished the opposition’s and jat’s protests against doing so. He rejected a proposal to build both a mosque for Muslims and a temple at Ayodhya side by side. He refused to attend the inauguration of a mosque away from Ayodhya in exchange for the demolished Babri masjid.

The Hindu Supreme Court validated the demolition of the Babri masjid.  The Supreme Court judge Ranjan Gogoi was inducted, shortly after his retirement, as a member of the Rajya Sabha (council of states) as quid pro quo for his pro-government decisions including the abolition of Kashmir’s special status. The serving SC judges rejected a petition for inquiry into Gogoi’s’ in-service conduct.

Increasing Hindu radicalization in India

The National Crime Records Bureau omitted data on murders, burning Muslims alive, cow-related lynching and offences committed for religious reason (NCRB leaves out data on lynchings, khap and religious killings, Indian Express October 22, 2019).

It is strange that `status of cow’ overshadowed all other issues in India’s elections. This topic was vehemently discussed, inside and outside India’s House of People (lok sabha). One is shocked to read that chief minister Yogi Adityanath of India’s Uttar Pradesh state equated cows with human beings (Tribune July 25, 2018).

Read more:  Saffron Outfit, Extremist Agenda: JUI-F On Same Path As RSS Of India

In over ebullience to show veneration to cows, Rajasthan Bharatya Janata Party’s president Madanlal Saini even distorted history. He said that a dying Moghal emperor Humayun told his father Babur that he should respect cows, women, and brahmins if he wanted to rule India’. We know Humayun was Babar’s son, not his father. Babur was Humayun’s father who died in 1531. Humayun breathed his last in 1556, 25 years later.

Some political wizards have even tried to distort religion. They say it is a sin under various religions to eat beef (Islam and Christianity included). A Goa legislator complained that cow vigilantes (gau rakhshak) intercept beef trucks into Karnataka and put phenyl on it to make it unfit for eating (Hindustan Times 26 July 2018).

High-Court judgment on cow issue: Judge Mahesh Chandra Sharma of the Rajasthan high court talked in detail about the benefits of cow in his 193-page judgment. His judgment, a mélange of scriptures and law, glistens with hijinks like ‘Peacocks Don’t Have Sex’, ‘Cow is a Surgeon’, `a complete pharmacy’, and Cow is a ‘National Animal’.

The judge says in his verdict: “Nepal is a Hindu nation and has declared cow as the national animal. India is a predominantly agricultural country based in animal rearing. As per Article 48 and 51A (g) it is expected from the state government that they should take action to get a legal entity for the cow in this country.” His verdict relates to a Public Interest Litigation by an organization that sought steps for the protection of cows.

Indian Judge said that the peacocks are celibates

Later, in an interview with CNN-News18, the judge said, “The peacock is a lifelong brahmachari (celibate). He never has sex with the peahen. The peahen pecks on the tears of the peacock to get pregnant. That’s how she gives birth to a peacock or a peahen.

This is why Lord Krishna also wears the peacock feather. This is why the peacock feather is used by sadhus.” The judge revealed that when Lord Krishna came to earth, he brought down a cow with him to Vrindavan. And he knew that the cow could suffice for doctors and surgeons because cow’s milk is medicinal in nature, and cures all kinds of ailments (except insanity).

Read more: Religious freedom a myth in “secular” India: RSS & Jesus Statue

The judge’s reflections are not the first-ever `scientifically inaccurate and outright asinine’ outbursts Earlier, Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani proudly proclaimed, defying all boundaries of human knowledge about mammals, that the holy cow is the only animal that inhales as well as exhales oxygen.  Speaking at the Hingonia Goshala during an event organized by Akshay Patra foundation on January 14, the minister said, “Gai  ekmatra prani hai jo oxygen grahan karta hai, aur oxygen hi  chhodta hai  (The cow is the only animal that takes in oxygen  and also releases oxygen).” “It increases religiousness and piousness. This is what makes cow’s milk so important”.

It is repugnant to common sense that cow milk alone could cure malaria, dengue, smallpox, Ebola, and AIDS.

Lynching unlikely to stop even if Muslims stop eating beef in India

Could lynching stop if beef-eating stops? Even if the Muslim gives up dairy farming and eating beef, about 12.5 million Hindus would continue to do so. The extremists would lynch or demonise Muslims on other excuses like reason when a Muslim marries a Hindu sweetheart, or simply because a Muslim voyeur stares at a Hindu woman, sharing a seat with him in an omnibus. When Rahul Gandhi met some Muslim intellectuals in New Delhi, he was dubbed pro-Muslim and his party `a haven for the Muslim’

No focus on real issues: A bird’s eye view of India’s real issues is given in Burkha Dutt’s book This Unquiet Land: Stories from India’s Fault Lines. In the chapter “A Society in Flux”, the writer pointed out that `seven out of ten households in India live on less than Rs. 200 a day’ (page 271, ibid.). India is home to world’s poorest 1.2 billion people and 1.4 million children die before their fifth birthday’ (page 290, ibid.). The book also recounts violence in Indian society (Samjhota Express Blasts 2007, Malegaon blasts 2008, anti-Sikh riots 1984, anti-Muslim riots 2002, and lynching by cow guards (gao rakhshak)..

RSS’s influence and outreach to the world: Breaking its isolation, Rashtryaya Swayem Sevak Sangh, RSS (BJP’s militant wing) held a conclave (Sep. 16-18, 2018) in New Delhi. The RSS has also invited heads of religious organisations, including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other sects. Stung by the aggressive attack led by Rahul Gandhi for the past few months, its game plan was to elaborate its stand on  contentious issues such as cow vigilantism and lynching, occupied Kashmir, Ayodhya, Article 370, women’s empowerment,  education, culture, and also the Modi government’s mark sheet.

Since the RSS has been the whipping boy of sections of the foreign media. To shore up its image, it invited heads of over 100 foreign missions in New Delhi to their meet.

According to the National Sample Survey Office more than 80 million Indians consume beef, of which Hindus account for 12.5 million, the rest belonging to various other communities, including Muslims and Christians.

Read more: Arundhati Roy speaks up against Modi and RSS

Moreover, according to 2015 figures, India has been the largest exporter of beef since 2014 and has been outpacing Brazil in that department steadily over the past few years. India’s Al-Dua is a leading exporter of halal/kosher meat to Arab nations. It is a pity that a lot many rich Hindus have a dual face. For instance, according to the Registrar of Companies Sangeet Som is a big beef exporter. Yet, he is simultaneously an anti-beef crusader from Uttar Pradesh.  He is an accused in the Muzaffarnagar anti-beef riot. The pinnacle of irony is that he who later became a BJP member of legislative assembly.

Goa allows beef consumption as does the Northeast. Both, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu have openly admitted being a beef eater. Yet none of the vigilantes in their constituencies spare beef eaters.

To escape vigilante’s wrath,   Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan abandoned his cow farm and switched to a buffalo farm. He exhorted his followers to give up dairy farming to escape lynching.

 It was attended by over a thousand intellectuals from all walks of life. Change in RSS’s outlook is understandable. It has grown phenomenally during the past five decades. Its swayamsewaks now hold the top four constitutional posts of India’s president, vice president, prime Minister and Lok Sabha (house of people) speaker. They occupy 20 Raj Bhawans. Eighteen of them are chief ministers. Half the Union Cabinet comprises RSS members. The political initiation of over 1,000 members of legislative assemblies and 250 members of parliament has been through the RSS. About a million

Indians daily attend over 55,000 shakhas (lectures) across the country.  Its 500-odd frontal organizations manage colleges, schools, media, hospitals, and tribal and Dalit non-governmental organisations. Ten thousand full-time pracharaks (preachers) are active in politics, culture and

Various cow think-tanks at home and abroad: `Liberals; were stunned when chief minister Yogi Adityanath of India’s Uttar Pradesh state equated cows with human beings (Tribune India , July 25, 2018). India’s Uttarakhand assembly passed a resolution for `declaration of cow as rashtra mata, national mother’ (Hindustan Times Sep. 20, 2018).

Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma of Rajasthan High Court stunned reporters by saying (May 31, 2018) `All doctors are frauds and we could have all been cured of diseases with nothing more than cow’s milk.’ He urged the Centre to declare cow as India’s national animal and recommended life imprisonment for cow slaughter’. Physicians must have smiled at his assertion that `cow inhales and exhales oxygen’, and `a peacock is a lifelong celibate like Krishna’.

There is a Muslim wing of the RSS

At the conclave a Muslim wing of the RSS distributed a pamphlet echoing Sharma’s sentiments. The RSS’s rising influence among all strata of Indian society cannot be ignored. Huffington Post dated August 3, 2017 published a detailed report on benefits of cow-and-dung recipes like: (a) A cow-dung-and-urine beauty soap could stall ageing. Krishna looked like a 12 year old as he used such soap. (b) Cow dung and urine (gao mutra and gau gober) could prevent radiation when used to construct a bunker or rubbed on a mobile phone. This compound can defuse even an atomic bomb. (c) Pregnant women should have cow dung-urine derivatives for normal delivery.

India’s prestigious `Institute of Technology  received about 50 proposals from top research institutions across the country to explore benefits of panchgavya (mixture of cow urine, cow dung, milk, ghee and curd). India’s Union Ministry of Science and Technology has constituted a 19-member panel to conduct a detailed research on cow derivatives and their   benefits.

Cow slaughter and the Constitution: The government has imposed a new set of rules under guise of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules. These rules prohibit the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter at animal markets.  They amount to an indirect beef ban.  As such, they triggered protests in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and drew ire of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Madras High Court had to stay the enforcement of the rules lest they flare up into massive riots.

However, legal dispute dates back to founding of the Republic. During the framing of the Constitution, the subject of cow slaughter was a contentious issue.  Seth Govind Das, a member of the Constituent Assembly, framed it as a “civilisational [problem] from the time of Lord Krishna”, and called for the prohibition of cow slaughter to be made part of the Constitution’s chapter on fundamental rights, on a par with the prohibition of untouchability. In this, he was supported by other members of the Constituent Assembly, such as Shibban Lal Saksena, Thakur Das Bhargava, Ramnarayan Singh, Ram Sahai, Raghu Vira, R.V. Dhulekar and Chaudhari Ranbir Singh. Proponents of a cow slaughter ban advanced a mix of cultural and economic arguments, invoking the “sentiments of thirty crores of population” on the one hand, and the indispensability of cattle in an agrarian economy on the other.

Snag: There was one tiny snag. The fundamental rights applied to human beings, not animals. After much debate, the Constitution’s Drafting Committee agreed upon a compromise: prohibition of cow slaughter would find a place in the Constitution, but not as an enforceable fundamental right. It would be included as a “Directive Principle of State Policy”, which was meant to guide the state in policymaking, but could not be enforced in any court. Furthermore, in its final form, this Directive Principle (Article 48 of the Constitution) excluded the thorny question of religious sentiments. It fell short of calling upon the state to ban cow slaughter outright. Instead, under the heading “Organisation of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry”, Article 48 says the state shall “organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”

Members of the Constituent Assembly found these incremental compromises both unprincipled and unsatisfactory. Shibban Lal Saksena objected to such “back door” tactics, and asked why the Drafting Committee was “ashamed of providing for [the prohibition of cow slaughter] frankly and boldly in so many plain words”.

Z.H. Lari, one of the Muslim representatives in the Assembly, stated that his community would not stand in the way of the majority’s desire, but nonetheless asked that the majority “express itself clearly and definitely”, so that Muslims could know exactly what the position was on cow slaughter. However, Assembly steered clear of the issue of cow slaughter Article 48, a provision that was grafted out of a compromise that left nobody satisfied, came into being with the rest of the Constitution, on January 26, 1950.

In the Supreme Court Right from 1958, the Supreme Court was asked to adjudicate upon the constitutional validity of cattle slaughter bans passed by various States. Petitioners before the court argued that a prohibition of cow slaughter violated their rights to trade and business, and also their right to freedom of religion. The Supreme Court rejected these arguments and upheld the laws, but it did so by focusing its reasoning entirely on economic considerations. It stopped short of shattering the thin facade of secularism to which the Constitution remained committed.

To favour vigilantes, the Central government invoked a Supreme Court order on cattle smuggling across the Nepal border, as well as a 1960 law, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, as its justification for indirectly banning cow slaughter.

The bitter truth is that Supreme Court’s orders makes no mention of cattle slaughter and a reading of the Act demonstrate clearly that it does not contemplate prohibiting animal slaughter per se. Not only does it specifically exempt slaughter of animals for food, it also provides for advice on the design of slaughterhouses, so that “unnecessary pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is eliminated in the pre-slaughter stages as far as possible.”

The executive notification cannot go beyond the specific terms and ambit of the parent law from which it derives its authority. The government’s new rules, nevertheless, prohibit the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets; they contravene the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act by specifically forbidding what that Act permits. There is a strong argument, therefore, that the rules are invalid.

There seems no basis for limiting the reach of an anti-cruelty regulation to only some animals (cattle, animals, and cow). At the very least, in law, this casts serious doubts about the government’s motivation and justification for its rules.

On the same day a man was beaten to death by cow vigilantes, senior Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said beef eating was unconstitutional. Naidu said, “One can eat his food of choice, but avoid eating that food which is prohibited as per our Constitution.” The Constitution does, however, mention the cow in article 48 which reads, “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”

However, article 48 is part of India’s Directive Principles of State Policy which are non-enforceable and exist solely as a guide to India’s leaders. The prohibition of alcohol is also a directive principle and other than in a handful of states with explicit laws, drinking is perfectly constitutional across the Indian Union. Similarly, in states like West Bengal and Kerala, there is no prohibition on the slaughter of cows and beef is easily available.

The text of article 48 only talks of curbs on slaughter. The act of eating beef itself is not mentioned. In fact, far from certain meats being unconstitutional, successive court judgments have held that legal curbs on food itself as unconstitutional. As recently as January 2017, the Bombay High court held that while cow slaughter could be banned, the act of, say, eating a beef steak itself could not be criminalised since it is a violation of the Right to Life, a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution.

Not law political expediency: Cow protection movements have gained in strength notwithstanding. This is, of course, simply because cow reverence is an article of faith with a large number of Hindus and, like all matters of religion, exists independent of facts.

Eating beef is not unconstitutional. Yet calling it so has political value. It panders to sentiments of the religious morals of many BJP supporters

Cow Dung worth more than diamonds

In 2005, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on cow slaughter enacted by Gujarat legislature under the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.  Till then, as per a 1958 judgment, the state could only ban the slaughter of unproductive bovines not capable of functioning as milch or draught animals. The 2005 judgment, however, held that all cattle slaughter could be banned since even the dung of a single cow is worth “more than even the famous Kohinoor diamond”.

Conclusion: Preventing cow slaughter or the eating of beef has neither economic nor constitutional backing. It must be recognised for what it is: a quasi-religious demand that has taken centre stage in Indian politics of the 21st century. Soon after a Muslim beef eater was killed, an RSS leader exhorted people to stop eating beef. He promised that if they forego beef,  lynching in the name of cow would stop automatically. But the issue now has gone beyond mere cow vigilantism.   It is a ploy to polarize the Hindu and garner his votes.  The portents are that the RSS would have a critical role in influencing 2019 general elections. And, by corollary, ruling party would be the largest winner.

Where secular India is headed towards? If re-elected, which he is likely to be, Modi would amend India’s constitution to make India a Hindu republic and adopt cow as an equal citizen.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been writing free-lance for over five decades. He has served federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. He knows many languages including French and Arabic.