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Image: 'Gau rakshaks' (“cow protectors”) assaulting Muslims in Alwar, Rajasthan, India, on the suspicion that they were smuggling cows on April 3, 2017. One man died after the brutal assault.

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Is This What Decent People In India Want?
Hindutva Runs Amock





Gujarat, [Narendra Modi's own state in India which he ruled like a mafia don before becoming the country's prime minister] has passed an unusual law on cow slaughter.

The state amended the Animal Preservation Bill and changed the punishment for those convicted of killing bulls and cows.

It will now be a life sentence and a minimum of 10 years, meaning that Gujarat has decided that the act of murdering a citizen and killing an animal are equal crimes.

The chief minister of the state has said that he wants to turn Gujarat vegetarian. He added, somewhat unusually, that he was not against any food.

The outsider might ask: If there is no objection to food, then does that mean the chief minister's party, the BJP, have no problem with beef?

The answer is that, of course, it does.

Beef is the reason the law has been passed, but not the legal reason.

The legal standing comes from the Directive Principle in the Constitution which says cows and bulls should be preserved for economic reasons.

This logic is from a time when bulls were used for ploughing, which is a time behind us.

No other nation has this sort of economic logic, it is only India.

And that is because of the Hindu unease with beef.

India pretends it has a Constitution that is not linked to any particular religion.

Indeed, Indians like myself have always taken great pride that we are very different from Pakistanis who built a State around religion.

The reality is that India's laws are inflected by high caste Hindu customs.

Another example is prohibition.

The Constitution also disapproves of alcohol. The sociologist M N Srinivas said prohibition was a Sanskritic act. This is true.

Like beef, alcohol is also banned or restricted using other pretenses.

Indian states have often experimented with prohibition and most often failed.

Bihar wrote a law that collectively criminalised the possession of alcohol. Meaning that if I was found with a bottle in my house, my wife and relatives and whoever shared the house with me would also be charged.

This law was so ridiculous that it was hard to believe that the state would consider it.

The courts finally stepped in to block it, but another variant of the law was approved. Courts do not always weigh in on the side of the freedom of the individual.

These days India is implementing a court order that establishments serving and selling alcohol within 500 metres of a highway should be shut down.

In some states in the northeast, which are mountainous and have few roads, this would mean shutting down most of such establishments.

The court has made exemptions for these states, though I have not been able to fully understand the logic of that. If the issue is safety, then it cannot be compromised with.

To me, the issue is that of individual freedom.

The state should assume that its citizens will drink responsibly and it should have the capacity and intent to prosecute those who drink irresponsibly and put others and themselves in danger.

Instead, in imposing this ban, the State is assuming citizens are generally irresponsible.

The State is encroaching on individual rights and imposing a form of prohibition.

And so through these various actions, religion is creeping into the framework of our Republic. Other countries also do this sort of thing, of course.

Pakistanis love kite flying during the festival of Basant. However this is seen by some as an unIslamic practice and so often runs into trouble with the law.

Courts have ‘concluded’ that kite flying endangers birds and the safety of citizens and therefore should be banned.

I think this comes from a very similar instinct as we are seeing in India.

The difference is that Pakistan does not claim its constitution and laws are secular.

They are Islamic, though there is some discomfort among many Pakistanis with this fact because religion alone does not offer us a framework for modern government.

In India it is the opposite.

There is a discomfort among many of us at the fact that the Republic is not more Hindu than it could or should be. This discomfort is producing laws such as the one we now have in Gujarat.

We should acknowledge that this is a narrow reading of Hinduism which is being pushed by the BJP on Indian citizens.

Those Indians who work with leather and meat, like Dalits and Muslims, will face the wrath of this new law.

But we can always assure them that we are officially a secular nation whose laws are not specifically aimed at victimising them.

[The author is Executive Director, Amnesty International India.]

Courtesy: Rediff. Edited for

April 9, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Harmeet Singh (New York, USA), April 09, 2017, 10:06 AM.

In the image above, the assailant has what looks like a butcher's knife in his hand. He appears to be in the act of murdering the victim. In broad daylight! (News reports did say one person, a Muslim, was murdered.)The assailant is easy to identify. Will it make any difference in a rabid Hindutva India?

2: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ), April 09, 2017, 6:13 PM.

Guru Nanak has already posted a comment on this a few centuries ago. “The man-eaters say their prayers. Those who wield the knife wear the sacred thread around their necks. In their homes, the Brahmins sound the conch and yet have the same taste. In total it is false capital and false trade. The home of modesty and dharma is far from them. Says Nanak, it is totally permeated with falsehood” [GGS:471]

3: Dr K.N.Singh (Johor Baru, Malaysia), April 12, 2017, 2:38 PM.

Everything should be a choice ... Observing Ramadan. Eating beef or pork or neither. Fasting on Tuesdays, or not fasting at all. These choices are for the individual and cannot be, should not be, legislated in a civilized society ... except to ensure that it is up to the individual and his/her conscience.

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Hindutva Runs Amock"

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