Religious discrimination is a very crippling issue for a democratic and diverse nation like India. And we have been observing that happening over the past few years. Hinduism has been getting a lot of attention with the Bhartiya Janata Party in power. BJP has been abolishing laws they deem unnecessary, for example, the removal of Article 30 resulted in many communities being pushed to minority status in India and this has been causing a lot of trouble to the general lives of people. The banning of cattle slaughter and the export of aged cattle out of the state resulted in the abandonment of many cattle causing them to become feral. The BJP government has been enforcing laws for the protection of cows and cattle in order to save the sacred animal of the Hindus. This rule has plunged meat and leather exporters into losses and broke the supply chain between these industries and dairy farmers. Ever since BJP took to power, they have promised to increase economic growth and improve the state of employment in the country. But the party has been focussing on preserving the sensibilities of India’s majority population – Hindus.
As much as we are for animal safety, it is also essential to provide for the humans who are dependant on those cattle for their livelihood. Entering the game by promising employment and taking away the already existing employment opportunities is causing rifts in the lives of rural households. Economics professors have given their expert opinion on how this law could affect the economy on a macroscopic scale. The rearing of redundant and aged cattle causes losses for the farmers and therefore the cost per unit of milk has to rise steeply in order to sustain the dairy economy.
The economy is not the only victim of this cattle protection program. They ended up making the cow a culturally important symbol of the motherland. A division was introduced between Hindus and Muslims for the consumption of beef. The BJP has introduced a law to impose life imprisonment for slaughtering a cow in Gujarat. With this rule, people began to assume the role of cow defenders and started dealing with Muslim farmers and cattle traders in a violent manner. There were terrible attacks on Dalits resulting in a rise in mob lynching cases.
This just escalated to a state where these cow defenders or ‘Gau Rakshaks’ started assuming that Muslims were still purchasing beef and were engaged in cattle trade and started randomly attacking them. Extortions, abuse, theft, and killings kept increasing.
A 55-year old dairy farmer was brutally thrashed and killed because he was seen transporting cattle. The government has also been supporting this mentality among the people.
In 2018, Mohammed Qasim, a 45-year old cattle trader lost his life as a result of mob lynching. The case was filed under a false report saying that the trader had died to an unfortunate motorbike accident. This led to protests and riots after which they arrested 9 men on charges of murder and rioting.
Uttar Pradesh after getting a Hindu chief minister has been throwing controversial comments throughout his speeches triggering tensions in the community. There was a clear opposition against Muslims. Uttar Pradesh is the biggest producer of beef and the shutdown of the cattle trade has affected the Muslims in the state a lot more.
The UP government recently approved a draft ordinance issued to prevent crimes against cows and their slaughter. It held 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to 5 lakhs. But a lot of the citizens consider this cow protection to be a means of political technique to bring in divisions. The death of a cow is advertised when there is a person of a different religion involved.
With the current scenario of the world being dictated by COVID-19 where the economy is dwindling and we are facing massive issues. BJP leaders are now claiming that cow dung and cow urine can be a cure for COVID-19. Assam BJP MLA told that cow urine when sprayed has the ability to purify an area and therefore it can also be used to cure coronavirus.
This act of cow protection strikes right in the cords of the orthodox Hindu minds because it is a method of honoring their sacred symbol. Since the majority of the Indian population comprises Hindus the party feels that this will attract more Hindu votes. Maintenance of stray cattle is becoming an added burden to the local farmers whose crops are always in danger of getting destroyed. Despite this, Gau Rakshaks keep targeting Muslims, minorities, and Dalits which causes regional and national conflicts among states and religious clashes arise.
We keep forgetting that Hindus are just a part of a nation that has secularism as its stronghold. And these violent attacks will stifle protests and hatred among communities. Police do not take sincere action on these cow protectors due to added political pressure and they are mostly let free even after killing a Dalit or a person from the minority.
Conservation and protection of animals are essential to keep their species going in the world that is their home. But bringing a religious approach to this humane concept is where things go wildly wrong. People have been accustomed to eating meat and have built a trade over the act. Many people’s lives have been intertwined around it and because of the new rules that are brought without any proper plan or strategy of overcoming the impacts that might occur as a result will be a huge issue.
The government plans to build cow sheds for providing protection to stray cows which requires a large amount of money which will be really difficult to set aside, given the present issues with COVID-19. Proper rules and relaxations need to be followed and just treatment has to be ensured by the ruling party so that there is no bias and that people are being subjected to fairness and justice. Religious discrimination is the last thing the people of this country need to deal with. There was a harmonious way of life before this act stepped in which clearly weighs down the necessity of this rule. Let’s hope to see a lot more humanity in the future, for both animals and humans.