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Irrational meat politics

In the wake of the lynching that took place last week in <g data-gr-id="49">Bisara</g> village, the status of cow among vast sections of the Hindu community has come into sharp focus. Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan on Tuesday called for a meeting of the processed food exports promotion body to ensure that cow meat is not illegally exported. In the meeting, officials will discuss means of tallying the availability of buffalo meat in India and the quantity that is exported. <g data-gr-id="50">Balyan</g> went on to claim that illegal meat exports worth Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 15,000 crore took place in the country every year.

Meanwhile, coming back to the lynching in a Western Uttar Pradesh village, which took Mohammad Iqlakh’s life based on a mere suspicion that he had killed a calf and ate its meat, the Uttar Pradesh government has submitted a report to the Centre. According to certain news agencies, the report made no mention of “beef consumption or cow slaughter” rumours having triggered the killing of Mohammad Iqlakh.  The report sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs said some unidentified people attacked Iqlakh and his son Danish over unconfirmed allegations of having consumed the “meat of an animal banned from slaughter”. The state government’s report made no mention of the circumstances that may have provoked mob to lynch Iqlakh. Despite the belated plea of certain Union Ministers, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rank and file continues to stoke communal passions on the ground. “The state government will pay the price for its partial behaviour towards one community,” said Sangeet Som, the MLA from UP’s Sardhana constituency. “Like they (the ruling Samajwadi Party) had taken the accused in Muzaffarnagar riots in a plane, they have taken those cow killers in a plane.” Meanwhile, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sadhvi Prachi on Saturday said that those who consume cow meat deserve the same fate as Iqlakh. For the uninitiated, the VHP is a sister organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor. What is common to all the instances stated above is the veneration such figures hold for the holy cow and that any attempt to endanger its life will provoke a sharp reaction. The hypocrisy, here, is that the sacredness of cow only becomes an issue of religious sentiment when it comes to the consumption of beef by certain caste or religious communities. Even under those circumstances, it is interesting to note that vast segments of the Hindu community, especially in Kerala, consume beef. In fact, posh restaurants across various metropolitan cities openly sell beef items.

Indians across communal and caste lines consume products that are derived from cattle. Cowhide, the natural, unbleached skin and hair of a cow, is the primary material used to make leather. In fact for items such as leather shoes and bags, cowhide is almost exclusively used. No one seems to bat an eyelid at tanneries making leather across the country. From leather, we move onto sugar. The white sugar everyone consumes is not white. The original product is bleached using a decolourising filter called bone char, which is made using the bones of dead cattle. In an apparent paradox, India continues to be a leading exporter of bone char in the world. A Muslim legislator interestingly presented this paradox in Madhya Pradesh. According to news reports, the legislator moved a resolution for a ban on the trade of cow bones in July 2014. “The cow is treated as a mother but after its natural death it’s left unattended not befitting the status of Gau-<g data-gr-id="52">mata</g> it’s accorded. When cow becomes unproductive, it’s made to die artificially. A mother should always remain a mother,’’ he argued. Interestingly, the BJP legislators voted against the resolution. Also, stearic acid, an industrial chemical used in soaps, detergents and tyres, largely consists of cow fat. Meanwhile, the game of cricket is a religion in India. The game’s appeal, some would argue, overpowers the taboo against cow slaughter. For the uninitiated, the cricket ball made of cowhide. The underlying argument made here is that if the cow is sacred enough not to be eaten, it should then follow that leather products should not be worn or smashed around a field in the form of a ball. Religious diktats or beliefs of any shade are usually not subject to reason. For example, Islam’s position against the consumption of pork suffers from the same irrationality, as bullets, bread and toothpaste are consumer products that are derived from pigs. The recent incident in <g data-gr-id="51">Bisara</g> brings to light the sheer inanity of those who paint cow protection as a matter of faith. The subject is only used a means mobilise members of one religious community against another to deadly effect. Therefore, the agitation surrounding cow protection is nothing but a matter of politics.
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