Cow-slaughter and consumption and export of beef are sensitive issues in the Indian political and social milieu. Keeping these issues simmering and using them for misinformation is an unpleasant aspect of our democratic process.
Recently an irresponsible Congress outfit from the Madhya Pradesh made false allegations of beef-eating against the Prime Minister Vajpayee and raised obscene slogans against him. This is legally punishable, socially condemnable and politically. unpardonable and low.
I suggested in the parliament that decency demands the opposition to maintain certain minimum levels of responsibility while fulfilling its duties. If the opposition -- and Digvijay Singh -- are serious about stopping cow slaughter, they must cooperate with the ruling party and agree upon a constitutional amendment to ban cow slaughter.
I am reminded of a 36 year old incident. Dr. Chenna Reddy when a senior state leader and central minister from the Congress, had addressed the ‘Gaukhsab’ (cow butcher) community. In an attempt at communalisation, the community was exhorted to vote for Congress to prevent a ban on cow slaughter. Dr Reddy did not immediately counter this and therefore the Supreme Court repealed his election and banned him from politics for 6 years.
In any case, the final solution to the recurring political problems involving the cow issue is a clear constitutional ban on cow slaughter. A number of Mughal emperors had banned cow-slaughter. A footnote to John Stuart Mill's famous essay "On Liberty" is revelatory where he cited the Parsis giving up beef as a measure of respect to the sensitivities of the majority Hindu community.
Mahatma Gandhi was constantly engaged in putting an end to cow slaughter. Once, when it led to a riot in Hoshangabad, Gandhi had sent Maulana Bari and appealed to the people to stop cow slaughter.
The constitution very clearly says under Article 48 that the state shall ...take steps for...prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle, because this was mentioned under the Directive Principles of State Policy.
The Supreme Court had questioned a general legal provision on cow slaughter. It would be better to include this as a proviso to Chapter III of the constitution . It will be the most logical solution and a large part of our population expects this to be done.
It remains an emotional issue. Indira Gandhi had once promised Mahatma Vinoba Bhave a legal ban on cow slaughter. Although the government has banned beef-exports, there has been no progress on banning cow slaughter. Politics will take a new turn if the the ruling party and the Congress resolve to ban cow slaughter.
(Originally published in Hindi in Outlook Saptahik, issue dated March 10, 2003)
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