Bahadur Shah Zafar
Ramachandra Guha and Harsh Mander began—and hopefully ended—“the minority space” series in Indian Express on Tuesday. On the Day of Judgment—for they would prefer such an option rather than the presence of Bhagwan Vishnu—the duo would be hard pressed to explain the deviousness of their heart; the venoms of their actions.
Over the last fortnight or so, Indian Express has almost daily pushed this “minority space” agenda on its edit pages. This stems from the fear of Left-Liberals that, God forbids, if Muslims—and Dalits—were able to recognize that BJP and Modi are their best friends, the last plank of their survival would sink and take them down too in the vast ocean of human junk and wastefulness.
The agenda of these two academic/activist charlatans is clear: Make Muslims fearfully conscious of their separateness from the Hindu majority so that they are further pushed into a seized mentality and a common ground with Hindus is never created. Create Hinduphobia so the Muslims are not able to see the deviousness of Congress, BSP, Left who have done practically nothing for the minority in the last 70 years. The idea is to deny Hindus and Muslims a common ground.
Guha and Mander would skillfully hide the fact that out of 125 Muslim-majority seats in Uttar Pradesh, 84 went to BJP in the last assembly elections. That BJP has 79 Dalit MPs, 549 Dalit MLAs and one Dalit president.
While they beat their breasts and bemoan Muslims being treated as second-class citizens in Hindu-majority India, you would never see them acknowledge that it was Muslims who plunged the dagger of partition into the heart of this nation. You would never find them question Asaduddin Owaisi as to when the latter swears by the sanctity of the Constitution, what problem he has with the protection it offers to cows; or when its core ethos ask for a Uniform Civil Code.
You would never see them encourage Muslims to let Hindus have their way with the Ram Janmabhoomi. After all, even in austere places like Saudi Arabia it is common to move Masjid out of the way, in case infrastructural or other such need arises. Why, just four years ago, there was even a proposal to move Prophet Muhammad’s tomb! After all, Quran ordains that Namaaz could be read anywhere, it doesn’t need a Masjid for the act. While Namaaz could thus be performed even on roads, there can only be one Ram Janmabhoomi. Guha and Mander would never ask Muslims to make this one small gesture and see the flood of goodwill which would emanate from the majority. Imagine how much strength and unity just one gesture could do to the idea of a unified and strong India.
Guha and Mander would never highlight the fact that the 1857 War of Independence was an act of revolt by the Hindus who nevertheless chose a Muslim—Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar—to be their leader in the struggle.
You would never see them making an appeal to Muslims to do meaningful reforms. After all, there is a great deal of truth that unlike Christianity went through a Reformation Age, and Hindus had the Bhakti Movement to cleanse the outdated practices, Muslims perhaps never quite clinically reevaluate if a few of Quran’s maxims needed a debate. You would never find Guha or Mander question the Muslim leadership on their lack of progressive agenda down the centuries to the present modern age.
Guha even bemoans that Hindus were once led by Nehru-Gandhi and now by Modi-Shah. He would never reflect if this change is because Hindus feel Nehru and Gandhi betrayed them and the nation during the Independence struggle by appeasing Muslims—which led to thousands of Hindus lives lost during the Khilafat movement and Direct Action Day– and causing the Partition.
Men like Guha and Mander would show a trishul as a sign of Hindu fundamentalism; they would never analyse why such a majority still treats three Khans as their superstars. Why an APJ Abdul Kalam is loved and respected by practically every educated Hindu.
Most tellingly, Guha and Mander are now marginalized voices because of their selective truths. Just look at the reactions Guha has managed on his twitter handle. By mid-day, it had barely touched 100 reactions. And most of them were scathing to his piece that has appeared in Indian Express on Tuesday.
A point about Indian Express too (And The Wire, predictably joined the chorus). While they pick up every major (Guha) and minor (Apporvanand) voice to create fear psychosis about “minority space”, why there is never an intellectual giant such as Subramaniam Swamy or Rajiv Malhotra being asked to present their viewpoints? Why stray incidents are picked and highlighted to paint the entire Hindu community in bad light?
Besides, who wins if India loses?
We all know Shaktimaan the horse. From March 14 to April 20 this year, between its unfortunate injury and death, it remained a front page news on our lily-pure newspapers. Such love for protection of animals doesn’t extend to illegal cow slaughters. Never ever a word. Instead, cow-protectors are seen as a plot of Hindutva’s agenda. That veneration for cows, without VHP, RSS or BJP prop, doesn’t exist.
Before I am dismissed as a Hindutva foot-soldier, an anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim, anti-beef Hindu fundamentalist, let’s look at Indian constitution’s position. After all, this is where all hysteria should end.
Prohibition of cow slaughter is a Directive Principle of State Policy in Article 48 of the Constitution. It says: “The state shall endeavour…in prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.” On October 26, 2005, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws. Only Kerala, West Bengal and India’s northeast don’t have any restrictions on cow slaughter.
Before you burn me at the stake on beef trade, remember most beef produced, consumed and exported is buffalo meat which is not considered sacred to a Hindu. Besides, most cow-slaughterhouses are illegal. It’s a rampant illegal practice where cows are shipped to restriction-free states. Wikipedia says: “In 2013 in Andhra Pradesh, there were 3,100 illegal and 6 licensed slaughterhouses in the state.”
Sure, in practice, States take uneven position on the matter. Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have the strictest laws against cow-slaughter. Assam and West Bengal permit slaughter of cows 10-14 years old. In many states though cow-slaughter is a non-bailable offence. The terms of imprisonment could extend from a mandatory 6 months to 5 years.
So get this straight. Cow slaughter makes you a criminal in most of India. And please spare me this Hindutva tag. For cow slaughter was opposed by notable Muslims from the Mughals’ times.
Muslims and cow-slaughter
Emperor Babar ruled in 1526 that killing of cows was forbidden. Akbar (1556-1605), Jahangir (1605-1627), Ahmed Shah (1748-1754) all had restricted bans on cow slaughter. Yes, Aurangzeb deviated but Bahadur Shah Zafar completely banned cow slaughter in 1857. The de facto sultan of Mysore, Hyder Ali (1762-1785), punished cow-slaughter offenders by cutting off their hands.
It’s a fallacy that cow-slaughter in India began with the arrival of Islam. Vedas describe many gods such as Indra and Agni having preference for cattle meat. Sure the various invasions of Islamic rulers around 1000 AD made it common. Along with sacrifices of goats and sheet, cows too became a sacrificial animal, particularly on the occasion of Bakri-Id.
As in most things, British rule in India was trouble. They were used to eating beef. Slaughterhouses sprang up all over India. In 1944, British placed restrictions on slaughter due to cattle shortage. After all, they were required for transport, cultivation and milk among other purposes. But it came too late in the day. A historical survey, between 1717-1977, reveal that out of 167 communal riots, 22 were directly attributed to cow slaughter.
Arya Samaj, which opposed many existing practices of Hinduism in the 19th century, including idol worship, polytheism, child marriage, widow celibacy, the caste system, accepted the cow worship. Dayananda Saraswathi in 1881 opposed cow-slaughter as an anti-Hindu act. In 1683, Sambhaji, the eldest son of Shivaji, is said to have executed a cow-slaughter offender.
Ranjit Singh (1801-1839), founder of the Sikh Empire, banned cow slaughter throughout his domains. Cow was as sacred to the Sikhs as to the Hindus. Cow slaughter was a capital offence and offenders were even executed.
Let’s look at the stands of our revered leaders during British Raj. Mahatama Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya, Dr. Rajendra Prasad all had vowed to ban cow-slaughter in case India got its “Swaraj.” Let’s listen to Gandhi’s words: “Not even to win Swaraj, will I renounce my principle of cow protection…I worship and I shall defend its worship against the whole world. The central fact of Hinduism is cow protection.”
In 1966, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan wrote thus to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi: “For myself, I cannot understand why, in a Hindu majority country like India…there cannot be a legal (cow slaughter) ban.”
Why Cows Matter
Animals have always been worshipped in India as deities. Elephant-god Ganesh, monkey-god Hanuman, Vishnu’s fish, tortoise and boar forms, their “vahanas” such as swan, bull, lion and tiger were all major deities. As well as snakes out of fear; and crows as the abode of the dead.
Cows are sacred to Hindus as a companion to Lord Krishna. Dairy products have always been essential in Hindu culture. Panchagayya, a mixture of five products of cow milk, curd, ghee, urine and dung, is consumed in Brahmanical rituals. Cows and bull—such as “Nandi”—have been the symbols of Dharma. Owning cattle was—and is—a status symbol in many parts of India. It’s dung is a source of fuel and fertilizer. Hence, its position as a maternal figure—“Gau Mata”– to a Hindu’s mind. Buddhism and Jainism both rooted for cow-protection.
It’s a delicious irony of history that Hindus and Muslims together revolted against the British East India Company in 1857 for being made to use gunpowder greased with cow and pig fat. As cow is sacred to Hindus, the consumption of swine is forbidden in Islam.
So recognize facts as they are. Sure punish where law is taken into hands. But for god’s sake, don’t think cow-protection is a political manipulation. It’s constitutionally guaranteed and you subvert it at your own peril.