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|by Meena Kandasamy|
If they can kill our mother then what if we kill our brothers who kill her."
' a priest at the local temple in Jhajjar, as reported in the Indian Express.
Hang Your Judgment. No matter what you made of the above statement, in all probability you got it wrong. Unless of course, if you happen to be a cow-worshipping Hindu, fine-tuned into happenings in India.
The mother, in the above statement, refers to a cow. In sacred Hinduism, the cow is believed to be the gift of the Gods to the human race and many Hindus regard the cow animal as a spiritual mother. The killed brothers are, of course, humans. Now to the news in detail:
On October 15, five young men belonging to the Dalit (outcaste and formerly untouchable) community were beaten and burnt to death in the village of Duleena, Jhajjar District in the northern state of Haryana in India. According to reports, a mob of 2000 enraged Hindu villagers gathered and lynched the Dalits, when it was rumored that they were allegedly skinning a living cow.
For these Dalits, a economically underprivileged and socially segregated caste, skinning dead cows to sell the hide has been a traditional occupation. (Handling carcasses is considered 'polluting' in Hinduism, so scriptures decree that the 'dirty' work is done by the 'untouchable', 'outcaste' population.) Only this time around, the rumours spread that they were skinning a living cow. So, a frenzied mob of Hindus, returning from a festival-fair, dragged them out of the police post where they had taken refuge and lynched them. The word spread by telephone, word of mouth and within a hour the crowd numbered 2,000. A report by a seven-member delegation of India's left parties ' the first to reach the venue and conduct an independent inquiry ' chronicles the fact that the killings took place before three sub-divisional magistrates, the Deputy Superintendent of Police and about 60-70 police personnel who had been sent there after urgent messages from the police post. Officialdom and administration, are often content to be mute spectators.
Versions of the story vary, but the evident truth is that five Dalit men, all in their 20s, were murdered. The incident is highly upsetting. What is more dreadful and deplorable, is the justification that is being offered and the lackadaisical manner in which the matter is being dealt with.
Local members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) [World Hindu Council] demanded that no case be registered against any individual of the mob for their appalling behaviour. On October 16th, they organized a congratulatory procession in Jhajjar in defence of the killings. The police perhaps, seem to be listening to these Hindu fanatics: as of today, no arrests have been made.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its sister organization, the VHP seem to have a major concern over the dead cow, rather than the five dead men. Perceptibly equating bovine slaughter with frenzied and unjustifiable lynching of humans, the BJP spokesman declared that "they condemned any kind of killing."
VHP senior vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore, at a press conference in New Delhi, quoted the scriptures to say "the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being."
By harping back to religious scriptures instead of condemning the lynching of the dalits, the Hindu fundamentalists have not only reaffirmed their casteism, but they have proved that theirs is a politics of the perverse kind.
Cow's Karma : the quadruped as a political player
In post-colonial India, the cow has made a successful and solitary metamorphosis from cultural icon to political player. The Hindu organizations like the VHP find it easy to generate a solid vote-bank by mobilization of the rural masses, using the "Protect the Cow [Gauraksha]" movement, because the cattle are indispensable in Indian agriculture and are sacred to Hindus.
In the Indian context, a key dietary difference between the majority Hindus and the minority communities including Muslims and Christians, is that caste-Hindus don't consume beef; a difference that is being efficiently capitalized in order to further political gains. In April this year, VHP's Giriraj Kishore asked Muslims to stop eating beef as one of the preconditions for a peaceful coexistence with Hindus. Beef has now become a four-letter word, a tool of political exhortation. This Hindu hooliganism doesn't stop with the dietary dictatorship. Rather it begins there.
Amidst this ridiculous political set-up, the cow becomes a veritable weapon in the hands of Hindu chauvinistic and fundamentalist groups. Two months ago, a 16-member National Cattle Commission (NCC) submitted its four volume report to the Prime Minister. The report, sprawled over 1,500 pages, claims to be 'one of the biggest in the history of reports on speechless, deaf and dumb cattle'.
In its charter of 50 recommendations, the NCC has advocated to the government to amend its draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act to detain smugglers, mafia of cows and its progeny. Further, in order to protect the cows, the commission has suggested the formation of a Central Cattle Protection Rapid Task Police Force with a branch in every state. In a nation where human starvation deaths are as regular as the monsoons, the NCC, has also called for the constitution and establishment of a Fodder Corporation of India (with a branch in every state), along the lines of the Food Corporation of India.
In an overpopulated country like India, the cow and their milky ilk, with an estimated population of 300 million are nothing less than privileged citizens. Towards this holy end in mind, the NCC, with its morbid infatuation towards the quadruped, proposed that a cattle census must be taken and that the cow must be accorded the status of a National Animal. The NCC has also come up with a plan of retirement, pension benefits and maintenance plans for old cows that were employed by governmental offices for transportation purposes. But fanaticism and obsession over this spiritual animal, seems to have had a crushing impact on logic. Only a partial derangement could have driven a committee to come up with the idea of a directorate to be "in charge of the movement of cows, bulls, bullocks and calves from place to place and State to State and also monitor whether the cow moved out, have [sic] been utilized for the purpose for which it was moved from one place to another."
The NCC, going overboard with their enthusiasm, recommended that cow-slaughter must be recognized as a non-bailable and cognisable offence punishable by a maximum of ten years rigorous imprisonment with fine. For the accused to prove his innocence, the NCC advocated that "the burden of proof should be on the accused."
What happens when those accused of cow-slaughter have been killed like it happened last week? In Jhajjar, three days after the gruesome killing of the five Dalits, the administration has sent the carcass of the cow for post mortem.
Holy Cow. And what happens to the nation?
The dead cow haunts newspapers, hogs the headlines. She will come back from the post-mortem and give a few smiles, some lovely moos. To show their solidarity with the dead cow, there has been a victory procession. Next: Her burial (by the dalits, of course). And for that final adieu, a 21-gun salute, probably.
Meanwhile, families of the dead Dalits grieve the shoddy way they have been treated by the police. The police refused to arrange for a vehicle, leave alone an ambulance to take the dead bodies back to their village. "They gave us his body ' naked. We are poor Dalits that is why they did not think it necessary to cover my brother even with an old sheet" Dulchand, the brother of one of the lynched dalit cries and breaks down. The father of another victim, Raju, claims that it was not possible for him to identify the bodies: They were half-burnt, their eyes gouged out.
There couldn't have been a greater contrast: A cow is being accorded the status of a VIP, while the victims and their kin are subjected to greater horrors.
Political aspirations and convoluted agendas can lead to a pathetic disregard for dignity and human lives. This cold-blooded complacency characterizes the hideousness of Hindu militancy. Justifying brutality by quoting religious scriptures is terrorism: irrespective of where the perpetrator speaks from. Because of this kind of incurable and manic fixation, human rights have been cowed down. Currently it is being skinned alive. Post-mortems, anyone?
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