BJP's pink mask slips

There's a strange anom­aly in let­ting beef ex­ports flour­ish while bar­ring lo­cal cat­tle traders from earn­ing a liv­ing

Down to Earth - - LAST WORD -

Ais not a cow even if they share all traits BUF­FALO that are so revered by de­vout Hin­dus. Ask them why they wor­ship the cow and they will tell you that it is be­cause the cow gives “self­lessly”—ev­ery­thing from milk and fer­tiliser to skin—and is a “hum­ble and lov­ing an­i­mal”to boot.

But then,so is the buf­falo,one could point out.Docile, it does farm work, gives more milk and meat and earns the farmer a bet­ter in­come be­cause of its milk’s richer fat con­tent. Be­sides, its hide is thicker and, ap­par­ently, can be put to more ver­sa­tile uses. Th­ese con­sid­er­a­tions do not count with the re­li­giously in­clined who be­lieve in pro­tect­ing only the cow,which,ac­cord­ing to a learned friend, is for the fol­low­ing rea­sons. The buf­falo, poor thing, is dark, al­most black, and is the

(mount) of Yama, the god of death in Hindu mythol­ogy, and is thus in­aus­pi­cious.Be­sides,there is that un­for­tu­nate Mahisha­sura, the half-buf­falo minotaur. The cow, on the other hand, is al­ways por­trayed as pris­tine white and is as­so­ci­ated with the amorous herder god Kr­ishna and all things de­light­ful.

The dis­tinc­tion be­tween the two kinds of live­stock, how­ever spe­cious it may ap­pear when one is discussing an­i­mal rights and pro­tec­tion, is use­ful for the In­dian econ­omy.The buf­falo is a huge ex­change spin­ner. For the first time in 2014-15, In­dia’s beef ex­ports—and it is all buf­falo meat, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial­dom and the Hin­dutva bri­gade—out­stripped those of Brazil and put the coun­try in the top spot. Beef brought in a tidy $4.8 bil­lion and for the first time, In­dia earned more from this an­i­mal than from rice ($4.5 bil­lion) which has for long been the lead­ing agri­cul­tural ex­port.

The emer­gence of “vege­tar­ian In­dia” as the world’s top beef ex­porter has spawned many snide com­men­taries glob­ally,spe­cially since this hap­pened af­ter the Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) gov­ern­ment of Naren­dra Modi as­sumed of­fice.In fact,there has been a 17 per cent in­crease in beef ex­ports since then,and In­dia ac­counts for as much as 23.5 per cent of the global meat trade.The irony is that in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tions, Modi had at­tacked the pre­vi­ous Congress gov­ern­ment for pro­mot­ing a “pink revo­lu­tion”or the beef ex­port boom.

But while ex­ports thrive, the Hin­dutva lobby is do­ing its best to un­der­mine the liveli­hoods of hun­dreds of thou­sands in­volved in the cat­tle trade by pro­scrib­ing the slaugh­ter of cat­tle.This is par­tic­u­larly af­fect­ing Mus­lims, who are dom­i­nant in the sec­tor. Not just liveli­hoods, but lives are also be­ing lost as the saf­fron bri­gade launches in­creas­ingly ag­gres­sive at­tacks on cat­tle traders. The fallout can some­times be un­ex­pected and wide­spread. For in­stance, the ban on slaugh­ter com­bined with at­tacks on cat­tle traders is hav­ing a se­ri­ous im­pact in drought-stricken ru­ral Marath­wada where dis­tressed farm­ers are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to dis­pose cat­tle.

As the gov­ern­ment is dis­cov­er­ing,re­li­giously tinted views on meat can cause se­ri­ous so­cial,eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal may­hem with even its brother-in-arms, the Shiv Sena, op­pos­ing it. For­tu­nately, the courts have stepped in to up­hold in­di­vid­ual free­doms to al­low peo­ple the right to eat what they choose, ir­re­spec­tive of the “re­li­gious sen­si­tiv­i­ties” of some sec­tions. On Septem­ber 17, the Supreme Court said the meat ban is not an is­sue that can be “forced down the throat of any­one.A spirit of tol­er­ance has to be in­cul­cated”. This was a clear ad­mo­ni­tion to the bjp gov­ern­ment in Ma­ha­rash­tra.

As for un­do­ing the “pink revo­lu­tion”, it is not cer­tain that the Modi regime would be will­ing to forego the rich pickings from beef ex­ports—or up­set the big com­pa­nies that make a for­tune from it. It is a lobby that it can­not af­ford to an­tag­o­nise un­like the small cat­tle traders who enjoy no clout.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.