The cow always somehow makes her way into the national discourse. First, it was the murder of a man in Dadri, followed by the death of a truck driver in Jammu and Kashmir. What connects the two incidents is that both men were killed on mere suspicion of indulging in the desecration of the holy cow. To a foreign observer, India seems like a cow-loving nation. Different states, however, present rather different versions of that love. In Kerala, the love is purely restricted to the delicious delicacies derived from the holy cow eaten by both Hindus and other alike. Clearly, this is something that does not sit well with Hindu reactionaries in North India. On Monday evening, nearly 20 police officials went to Kerala House after Vishnu Gupta, a Hindu Sena leader, called and complained that the canteen at the state guest house was serving beef. In the light of Monday’s events, Kerala House had taken buffalo meat off its menu, according to the officials running the canteen but “Beef fry” is back on the menu. However, authorities at the Kerala House had insisted that it was legal buffalo meat bought from Delhi-government authorised slaughterhouses. For the uninitiated, the slaughter and possession of agricultural cattle, which covers cows, calves, bulls and bullocks, but not buffaloes, is illegal in Delhi. In Kerala, meanwhile, there are no restrictions on cow slaughter.
The actions of the Hindu Sena are condemnable, reminiscent of recent moral police-led events across vast swathes of North India. But it should come as no surprise considering that Hindu reactionaries have re-discovered their misplaced desire of preventing others from eating whatever food item they want. Strangely enough, the Delhi police saw it fit to address these sentiments. Despite the arrival of 20 Delhi police personnel at the state guest house, Kerala House officials made it clear that they couldn’t search the building. The Kerala House happens to be the property of the state government. “Kerala House is not a private hotel or an institution run for making a profit. It is an official guest house of the state government. The police action was unfortunate. They should have shown some restraint before carrying out searches,” said Oommen Chandy, the Chief Minister of Kerala. Cutting across party lines, state political leaders supported the chief minister, except the local BJP unit. In response, the police insisted that they did not storm towards Kerala house to investigate what kind of meat was being served, but instead were concerned about any untoward incident, in the aftermath of the Dadri incident.
What those in the Hindu Sena fail to realise is that beef has long-reigned over the dining table in Kerala. According to recent reports, beef accounts for more than 40 percent of all meat consumed. Moreover, approximately 80 percent of the state’s populace regularly consumes beef, and this is not just restricted to Muslim or Christian households. Muslims, Christians and Hindus have co-existed peacefully for years. Hindus celebrate Christmas by eating beef curry and rice with the Christians, and Christians/Muslims celebrate Onam by eating the vegetarian meal with Hindus. It is not as if Hindus in the state are not religious. Most Hindus are very serious about religion and the faith. But they usually keep it to themselves and do not force the rest to conform to their beliefs. The secular fabric of the state, however, is under threat, with reactionaries from all religious communities seeking to enforce their way of life. Nonetheless, as reactions to the above incident on social media by young educated Malayalees suggest, the secular fabric remains intact.