Beef has been receiving attention like never before. It has turned out to be one of the most heated debates of this day. On one hand, there are groups who celebrate the ban who believe protecting cattle is the most virtuous thing a man can do. On the other hand, there are those who oppose it claiming it to be a violation of their freedom.
What is so unique about India?
The debate has continued on media, newspapers, news channels etc. People have come up with various innovative ways to show their dissatisfaction. There has been a public celebration of beef festivals, public protests, twitter wars and outrage in social media.
In a multicultural society like India, we take pride in our diverse culture. Many wonder what it is that makes India a nation. What is it that unifies us? It’s not a common religion as some fundamentalists would like us to believe. It is not a common ethnicity or common history as the nationalists would like us to believe. Historically speaking India became a nation under British rule. It was a common suffering that bound us together. After independence, we grew as a diversified society confusing sociologists and historians all over the world. Maybe it was this sense of being different being unique is what motivated us to remain unified.
One of the ways to keep the nation unified is reversing a common past, a common culture. Attempts have been made to declare Hinduism, religion of the majority as the religion of India and idealizing the perfect culture of the Vedic period. Many social, political, religious groups aim to make India a Hindu nation. But in reality, Hinduism was never a religion in a true sense. It was and still is divided into various sects, castes, and sub-castes. The so called Hindu religion, in actuality, is the culture of the upper-caste minority.
Having maintained the unity, India now dreams to be a developed nation. Our generalized definition of development is very westernized. We wish to be developed like the west but with a traditional flavor.
Case of beef ban
Beef ban existed long before this lively debate began around it. Although there are some key distinguishing factors now. In states like Maharashtra and Haryana, the ban is not only on cow slaughter but also on consuming buffalo meat.
The rules have been made more stringent. Consuming beef can land you in prison for five years. But most of all attitude of the public in certain areas has changed. With a change in government, the Hindu majority has become bolder, more assertive, dominating and highly intolerant towards the issue of cow slaughter. A 50-year-old Muslim man was beaten to death in Dadri only on suspicion the he consumed beef. His son was severely injured. Attacks like this show violent nature and religious intolerance of these fundamentalists.
Now let’s talk about the great debate.
Arguments for beef ban
First and foremost argument in favor of the ban is the sentiments of the majority need to be respected to maintain solidarity. The cow is a sacred animal, revered in Hindu religion. Hindus have right to protect their sacred object from any harm. Consuming beef or killing a cow for any other reason can be hurtful and aggravating for the followers of Hinduism. Another argument made is more on the lines of vegetarianism. Short version of this argument can be – ‘animal slaughter for any reason is cruel and inhumane.’ This argument sees beef ban as the first step towards protecting animals. It also asserts the polluting nature of the meat industry.
Arguments against beef ban
Many rationalists and secularist have been shocked by the ban and the large group that supports it. They stress that India is a secular nation. To impose beliefs of one group on all other is going against the fundamental secular character of our constitution. We need to acknowledge the fact that not everyone in Hindu community supports this ban. As discussed earlier, Hinduism is still divided into numerous sects, castes, and sub-caste. Many of these sub-groups consume beef.
Beef is the staple food for the poor. A ban on beef consumption will surely affect their health and chances of survival. It is commented that the government is protecting cows at the expense of the poor. Another important fact remains that most of the people involved in meat industries are Dalits and Muslims. These minorities have faced discrimination and injustice in the past and continue to do so. Apart from these social arguments we need to acknowledge the economic impacts of this ban. India was that largest meat exporter before the ban. Shutting down meat industry has rendered many jobless. Most of these people come from the lower socio-economic background. With rising levels of unemployment in the economy, can the government provide jobs for this newly unemployed group? Also will ban something really have the desired effects? There is clearly demand for beef in the market. If the supply is forcefully stopped the rise of black markets is inevitable. This can further harm the economy. Ban is never a solution for anything. The banning culture violates basic human rights, curbs freedom and creates conflict.
We can see different perspectives different attitudes in these arguments. It is normally believed that there is a normal, accepted way of living in a society. But if we look closely enough we can see the pattern of the society emerge from many inter-linked, interwoven yet distinct perspectives. The key is to acknowledge these differences. One has right to act in a particular way, but forcing others to act in the exact same way is unacceptable. It is only through mutual respect and understanding can we grow as a society and a nation.