Sangh Politicised Cow Worship & Made It a Weapon Against Muslims
Recent cases of lynching are not isolated incidents but are inspired by the Sangh’s ideology, writes AAP’s Ashutosh.
We are all proud Indians. We are proud of the fact that India is among the oldest civilisations in the world. We are proud that people of all faiths live in harmony in this country. We are proud practitioners of the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb.
We are proud to belong to a nation that gave birth to the likes of Gandhi, Patel, Nehru, and Swami Vivekananda. We are proud descendants of great men who spoke of Hindu-Muslim unity. We proudly eat gujiya on Holi and sevaiyan on Eid.
We are proud to be a part of the world’s largest, most vibrant democracy where everyone is treated equally.
However, when we hear of instances where a person is killed in the name of the cow, it’s difficult to grasp that such a thing could happen in the nation we are so proud of. Should we remain silent in the face of such bloodletting in the name of national pride? Should we ignore what is happening right in front of our eyes?
From Akhlaq to Alimuddin
We all knew that the nation was undergoing a rapid series of changes. But who could have predicted that it would change into the unrecognisable state it has become today?
It is good that Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned lynchings at the hands of gau rakshaks and said that such a thing was unacceptable in Gandhi’s country.
A similar speech had been made in the aftermath of the Dadri incident as well. Our President’s distress at the time was also clearly evident. Has the nation then changed so much in the span of a year-and-a-half that it no longer pays heed to what the president and the prime minister say? Should we be proud of this change too?
United Voice: ‘Not In My Name’
A few days ago, a rag-tag bunch gathered at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. They were agonised and declared that the killings could not happen in their name. But are these voices of protest enough to stop the tide of change that has laid siege to the nation? The clamour was not restricted to just Delhi. Voices rose from all corners of the country.
This united voice was a request to India’s lawmakers and lawkeepers. But will those who are in-charge listen? Or will these voices end merely as a question? If I were being honest, I would say I have very little faith that this voice will change anything. The bloody tide might not have set in fully but its progress seems inexorable. Even the PM’s speech seems insufficient to quell it, for a variety of reasons, though I would like to be proven wrong.
Since the 2014 elections, there have been a total 32 attacks on Muslims in the country, claiming the lives of 23 people. Fifty others were injured and there were reports of two cases of rape. These attacks have not happened in one isolated region but are spread over 12 different states. It is true that non-Muslim communities too suffered a total of 26 attacks, claiming the lives of 5 people. Of these, some attacks made their way to the front pages while others died a quiet death.
All of these attacks have happened at the hands of gau rakshaks. Gau raksha is not a new trend. Some Hindu outfits were raising this issue in the pre-independence period. There was even a big movement some time in the 60s and a lot of people lost their lives to mob violence and police bullets. It did crop up now and then in the succeeding years but in the last three years, it has turned into a veritable juggernaut. It is to the 2010s what the Ram Mandir Andolan was to the 80s and 90s.
Politicising the Cow
I believe that the killing of cows on its own is neither a religious nor a social issue. It is, like Ram Mandir, an entirely political one. Ever since the inception of the RSS in 1925, Hindutva forces have been trying to gather caste-ridden Hindus under one umbrella. These forces believe that Hindus everywhere should present a militaristic united front to neutralise the threat of a Muslim uprising and to secure India’s status as a global Hindu superpower.
The Sangh is aware that the Hindu society worships the cow as a holy animal. The Purana has details of wars fought over the cow. The cow was the foundation of ancient India’s agricultural economy. All across India, kids like me have grown up writing essays on cows that inevitably began with a line stating that the cow is our mother. In my village, cow dung was used to make cakes that fuelled our chulhas. My grandmothers would apply cow dung paste on the floors of our kitchen, believing that it would purify the domestic hearth.
They would wake up in the morning and feed their cows before eating something themselves. I often see them worshipping the cow by putting a vermillion tika on the cow’s forehead.
Even Gandhi said that “cow worship is one of the central tenets of Hinduism.” In his book, Myth of the Holy Cow, DN Jha has talked about the prevalence of beef-eating practices in ancient India. Even so, the widely held belief is that even non-vegetarian Hindus do not consume beef. The Muslim community, of course, has no such aversion to beef eating.
The Sangh has capitalised cleverly on the Hindu veneration of cow and has converted it into a weapon to be used against Muslims. They found that they could fan the flames of hatred for Muslims amongst Hindus by placing the issue of cow slaughter at the forefront. In this endeavour, they had plenty of help from history.
A big reason behind the 1857 revolt was that the cartridges supplied to Indian soldiers were coated with cow fat and needed to be torn off with teeth before they could be inserted into rifles. After the failure of the mutiny, a number of organisations had cropped up for the purpose of cow protection.
Dayanand Saraswati even tried to institute a Gau Raksha Samiti in 1882. Hindu-Muslim riots erupted in 1880 and 1890 over this issue and many lost their lives. The “Hindu Renaissance” proposed in the 19th century has found takers in the Sangh who have assimilated the movement with their own vision.
Those who believe that the string of killings in the name of the cow after the BJP came to power are merely random incidents are mistaken. These are neither isolated incidents nor a simple matter of law and order. These are strategic strikes in an ideological war.
I have no evidence that these killings are part of a pre-planned Sangh conspiracy nor do I know for certain that this is the case. What I do know is that Hindutva is an ideology that the Sangh has been preaching to crores of Indians since the last few decades. As a student of Political Science, I can say that ideology is not merely an academic subject.
This is the fuel that fires the actions of every person, every group. It is the organising principle behind armies and how perceive the categories of “us” and them”.
War of Ideology
Hindutva is as much of an ideology as Communism. Just like Communism dreams of a classless society, Hindutva dreams of a Hindu one. The socialist struggle against capitalism in USSR, China, and other parts of the world gave us many dictatorial regimes before it finally laid down weapons in 1990. By then, it had claimed the lives of lakhs of people.
There’s a similar war of ideology taking place in India now. It is not possible at this point to predict who will win and who will lose. It is clear, however, that the PM’s speeches are insufficient to stop the tide of lynchings. Whatever the eventual course of this struggle, it is not possible to be proud of such happenings.
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