Friday, March 20, 2015

The Story Behind the Beef Ban in Bombay and some Indian States

In an earlier article I mentioned how Hindutvadi bigots, protected and energized by the ruling BJP, have been making difficult the life of non-Hindus in the so-called secular India, which is a home to some 160 million Muslims and tens of millions of other non-Muslims. Rape has become a common feature in India making the country the most dangerous place to live and visit outside war trodden countries in our time. Even a 72-year old lady is not spared from such heinous crimes. 
Cow is considered sacred to Hindus. But when under the name of 'save the cows' the system allows making the lives of human beings unsafe it is not a civilized society. The life of human beings should be more important than anything else, including cows. But in Hindu India that common sense seems to be wanting. 
Forced conversion to Hinduism is now promoted by Narendra Modi's Hindutvadi regime.One sure way to implement such forced conversions is to take out the livelihood of the targeted minority. After all, there is nothing worse than hunger. And that is how the current ban on beef eating is used to marginalize Muslim merchants/traders, butchers, shop owners, cow-hide traders, restaurant owners/workers and others that had made a living with anything to do with cow. 
Nor should one ignore the dubious role of Kailash Satyarthi who shared the 2014 Nobel prize with Malala Yousafzai in marginalizing poor Muslims in India. He was another Hindu activist whose activities to ban child labor was directed mostly against Muslim carpet weavers. Carpet weaving has been a family business for generations with many Muslim weavers, passing on the skills to their children and grandchildren. With most avenues for upward mobility in economic and social ladder blocked for Muslim minorities in India since the independence of the country in 1947, many Muslims have resorted to such family oriented businesses to survive in today's India. Many poor and starving Muslim parents would send their children to work as child-labors rather than see them starve to death. Lest we forget discrimination against educated Muslims is very common in India. And education costs money, which many poor parents can't afford. And even if they can allow their children to have education in the primary and secondary level, a rational calculation on cost-benefit usually dictates them to see their children employed as child-labors. For many of children in India, working in carpet weaving facilities was a sure way to bring some food to the table of their home. Satyarthi's activism against child-labor targeted Muslim-owned businesses, which inevitably affected the livelihood of families of many poor Muslims. That story has not been sufficiently told. 
This observation of mine should not be thought of as an endorsement of child labor. What I am pointing out is that there is nothing worse than poverty. It is a threat to religion and everything we hold dear in our hearts. Unless that root cause is remedied, all efforts would only be addressing symptoms. 
Much of the Hindutvadi agenda these days in India includes economic strangulation of targeted minorities so that they would be forced to embrace Hinduism, the religion of majority Hindus in India. 
BJP's student wings and youth groups, like the Bajrang Dal under the guidance of BJP and its mother Sangh Parivar, are the vanguards in this campaign of terror, intolerance and marginalization of the non-Hindus. 
Please, read the news clip below from Syed Nazakat (Christian Science Monitor) for more info on the beef ban.
With a strict ban on beef in Mumbai that has closed down meat sellers across India’s most cosmopolitan city, this nation is dealing with a sacred cow issue – literally. 
The new ban is the strictest ever in India and includes penalties even for possessing beef. Breaking the law, which languished for five years before getting passed under a conservative ruling Hindu party, brings a fine and up to five years in prison.
Many Mumbai meat sellers are on strike in response, and eateries that feature kabobs and minced-meat delicacies in the Muslim quarter are losing customers. Some have closed. 
If the social agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, takes further hold, the beef ban is likely to spread to other states and add to recent Hindu-oriented policies that have made an impact on school curricula, language requirements, and even played a role in watching a BBC film on rape. A centuries-old sectarian battle is shifting to new grounds, say many analysts and intellectuals.
Cows are considered sacred by Hindus, who make up more than 80 percent of India's 1.2 billion population. But Muslims and Christians and many of India's tribes and castes are beef eaters. In states like Kerala in the south and West Bengal in the northeast, cattle slaughter is legal and beef is eaten regularly – even by Hindus.
“This is not about protecting cows. It is all about playing politics,” says M. B. Rajesh, a member of parliament from Kerala. “What one should eat or wear are personal choices and they simply cannot be imposed.”
Prime Minister Modi, a professed vegetarian who led his BJP Hindu party to a landslide win in last year's general election, has long spoken against beef exports and has expressed hope for a national ban on cow slaughter. Last spring, many Indians took this as only campaign rhetoric.
But the states of Maharashtra where Mumbai is situated, and Haryana, where beef was recently banned, are ruled by his BJP party.
Ironically perhaps, India is the world's second-largest producer of beef after Brazil. Yet due to religious sentiments and bans in various states, most of India's beef is exported to countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Egypt.
Much of the meat now sparking political divisions is not actually from cows. Much of it is from water buffalo, which in Hindu mythology is the “lord of death” and not regarded as holy.
To be sure, there is no national ban on beef; every state has its own laws on cow slaughter and beef sales. The issue is fraught; in some states, cow slaughter has led to communal clashes and police have at times arrested butchers for violating the law. But even in states with bans, beef is easily found to purchase. In Delhi, for example, where there is a ban, restaurants regularly serve beef. 
The hardest hit group in India are the Muslims who have a corner on the beef business and feel themselves targeted by the ban.
“The ban will render tens of thousands of people jobless,” said Mohammad Ali Qureshi, president of the Mumbai Suburban Beef Dealers Association. “What are we going to do? The [beef] industry doesn't  know how to deal with this. We are all worried about future."Given the sensitivity of cow slaughter, influential Indian Muslims have appealed to the civic nature of their constituency and asked that Muslims avoid cow slaughter on Eid, a Muslim festivalt.
Resentment surfaced recently in Mumbai after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), or World Hindu Council, a Hindu nationalist group tied to Modi’s ruling party, allegedly shut down several meat sellers. The VHP has now launched a “save the cow campaign” in Kerala and in a number of other states. 

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