The Bharatiya Janata Party of India, and its backup organisations, the Shiv Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, would like to pretend that they stand up for the cow. But they do not, really. At the very least, they show a disregard for overseas cows that is nothing less than racist.
In Vedic times, perhaps before the transition to sedentary agriculture, it seems that beef was not taboo. But then the bovines helped the ancients in the settlement of the Ganga plains and hence developed a sanctity that was consecrated by received religion. Cattle provided milk, gobar and muscle power for the plough, all of them crucial for the plains agriculturist.
But if you think that the Hindus of present day Hindustan revere the cow in a way that it matters, then chew the cud and think some more. Where do you think old cows go to? How many bovine hospices have you seen in your area? And with the gradual phasing out of bulls from fieldwork as agriculture becomes mechanised, what is happening to the male offspring?
For many old cows and otherwise ‘useless’ cattle from parts of North India and eastern Nepal, the not-so- happy hunting grounds are in the abattoirs of Dhaka. Ageing bovines walk or are driven overland, to the Bangladeshi border on trucks, then transferred to huge boats, where they ride shoulder-to-shoulder on a life-ending voyage along the Ganga. Out of sight becomes out of mind.
Centuries ago, some Hindus of Nepal with an obvious taste for beef decided that it was okay to consume the close cousin of the fair cow, the milk-giving dark-skinned buffalo. And so, just as ageing cows head for Dhaka, superannuated buffaloes from all over northern India head up the slope to Kathmandu, their hooves destroyed along the rocky trails. Or, they are transported, cramped and distressed, on Tata trucks to serve the demand for moms in the Nepali capital. They are roped through their nose rings to the truck rafters so that each animal remains standing to allow the carriage of the maximum number of the sad creatures.
But the human barbarism displayed in these death marches of the Ganga hills and plains are nothing compared to the bovine genocide being carried out in another ‘civilised’ part of the world. The original culprit is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE, “mad cow disease”. The disease incubates in cows, and enters the human chain through beef, leading to fatal brain illness.
About a hundred people have died since 1996 when the UK government admitted that the cattle were infected with BSE. About two lakh cattle in all are known to have contracted BSE. To tackle this disease, the British authorities have slaughtered all the 200,000 infected cattle. Just to make sure, they also killed another five million creatures that did not show physical signs of BSE.
So, five million cattle (mostly milch cows) killed in Europe, and do I hear a spontaneous wave of outrage amongst those who have made it their political agenda to speak up for the cow? Why this silence as television gives us graphic visuals of massive mounds of carcasses being torched in the rolling hills of central England, or of heavy earth-moving equipment stringing dead c[–] in the air before dumping them into mass graves?
While this largest ever culling of cattle in the history of the world might be justified in the interest of public health, what does it say of Hindutva’s Commitment to the Cow, Gaii Mata, Cow the Mother Goddess? It is obviously because these are European cows, infidel bovines, and hence of no concern for those whose agenda it is merely to use the cow as a political tool. For, genetic material being the same, it should not matter that one is a British cow and the other a Bihari. As this bovine genocide of phoren cows continues, therefore, do not expect a peep of protest from Balasahebji, or the militant Bajrang Dal units of Uttar Pradesh.