Political economy of beef banning
- Vidya Bhushan Rawat
The ‘gautmata’ brigade had started its march to Parliament Street once the new government took over in May 2014. Jantar Mantar saw large number of Babas and Sadhus with their cows and carts until one fine day the NDMC officials had to act and forcibly evict them from the place. The matter is not whether they remained there or not but the realization that their ‘own’ dispensation is there now and hence it was important to rake up the issue. A trip to the rural hinterland of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar will give you a glimpse of how the ‘cow protection’ is being converted into an electoral issue through polarizing the society.
Soon after it different offshoots of the Sangh Parivar started raising issues, which are the ‘heart’ of the party and thought that it is the right time to raise them. While the politicians know it well that even if they get huge majority the issues the party is emphasizing will only disintegrate the country. India can’t afford another partition and its wounded psyche. The issues like Love-Jehad, Ramzade verses Haramzade, vande-mataram, Ram mandir, Bangladeshi refugees, cow protection started cropping up again and again. The government on its own never tried to assure people of these ‘agendas’ and things became clear with BJP’s choice of leaders in different states where party came to power. In Jharkhand, it chose a non-Adivasi to lead the party in a very similar way as Chhattishgarh’sadivasis are being ruled by another non aadivasi Raman Singh. In Haryana and Maharastra two SanghParivar persons without any administrative experiences were handed over the charge of their states. Both Mohan LalKhattar and DevinderFadnavis came from active RSS background and cleared their intentions in the very beginning. Khattar is unable to control communal riot in Haryana and implementing the Sangh agenda dutifully while Fadnavis too is focusing the Sangh agenda to polarize things.
Cow beef is banned in India and known to every one but what is disturbing now is that Maharastra act brought into it the progenies of the cow family. Therefore slaughtering and killing of buffaloes, bulls, oxen too become illegal. The thought behind these things are very clear to push Muslims and others engaged in the business to virtually workless. There is no alternative provided by the government and more than the government agencies it is the Shiv Sena , the partner of the BJP in Maharastra which is ‘doing’ the work, making allegations against Muslims and threatening people with dire consequences.
The fact is that Maharastra is already reeling under severe drought and the government has failed to provide them any support. A huge number of persons engaged in the business will virtually become jobless as Times of India reports quoting, ‘Mumbai Suburban Beef Traders’ Association president Mohammad Ali Qureshi, said: “It will affect beef traders’ business as water buffalo meat accounts for just 25 per cent of our total sale. It will render many of us jobless while prices of other meat will go up and it will also affect rural economy. The farmers, already under debt, will have to maintain useless cattle on expensive fodder. The poor will not be able to afford high-priced mutton’. He said: “An ailing bullock or ox sells for about Rs 10,000 to 14,000 and farmers, unable to afford upkeep of such cattle, often sell it to slaughterhouses.”
In Haryana where the economy of babas is growing like Gujarat as they get huge donation to ‘serve’ ‘gaumata’ but a farmer who met me recently informed how it is becoming difficult to control stray animals of cow family. The babas, he said, only need female cows and they leave the males as free. These male progenies of cows later become bulls and uncontrollable ‘saands’ who can enter in any field thus destroying crops and injuring and killing many innocent people. We have seen the condition of cows in Gujarat where they are allowed to roam around in the streets and in the night sleep in open. A country looking forward as modern nation of 21st century can not afford such stupidities becoming our main work of life. One fact is clear that a farmer will find it difficult to own cow and its family as what happen once she stop giving milk. Where to cremate it ? Do we need the enormous dangers of all this ? We don’t have space to cremate for human being. The bio fuel is no more available and for burial we wont have enough space in future and we are now asking for more. At home, our parents suffer and we don’t care for her mothers. We earn, go abroad, become even prime minister but have no time for our mother. We don’t even feel her worthy of staying with her sons and daughters even when we have the capacity to keep her with us. Is not it the biggest hypocrisy of our time? Moreover, we appreciate those who cater their cattle but need to see what happen in the later years. A recent RTI revealed that Indian army gives a ‘decent euthanasia’ to its celebrity Dogs when they are out of use or say retired. Don’t these dogs have right to life after they have finished their work in the army? It is clear that army has purely a work-based relationship with these dogs and once their services are over they are killed. It shows that human relationship with animals even when we all love them is till they are useful to us. We love them even for some more years but it may not be possible to keep them for over and doing ‘seva’ of them as the Babas want us to do. Not every one has huge funds, Land and donation to serve them as the big babas these days. All the animals can be useful to us during the life and even after the life too.
Interestingly after the Maharastra ban, the Harayana government also acted. A number of the Sangh affiliates also jumped in and appreciated the Maharastra government’s effort in ‘respecting’ the Hindu ‘sentiments’. The demand grew louder everywhere and Muslims were being blamed for ‘eating’ beef as if it is their sole concern. The Maharastra act has draconian provisions where police can intrude in your kitchen and dining table too and question you regarding the food. Clearly such tendencies were more political and economical in nature to destroy the business of Muslims and deny them their basic food. However, it is not just Muslims who eat beef as has been proved through many reports and arguments. BJP’s agenda on beef is solely aimed at isolating Muslim further and creating a fictitious debate related to it.
One need to understand and ask a question as why Goa’s BJP government did not ban beef as it is a state bordering Maharastra? As per Indian Express report on March 21st, 2015, the chief minister of Goa,LaxmikantParsekar on Friday said the state will never ban beef as it does not believe in interfering with the food habits of its people. Parsekar told The Indian Express, “As the CM, I have to take care of all people in the state including its 38 per cent minorities. Christians account for 30 per cent of the population while the remaining are from the Muslim community. It is not like they started consuming beef recently; this has always been part of their daily cuisine. How can I ban it?"
Later the Union Minister of State for Home MrKiren Rijiju also admitted that he too eat beef and that the ban can not work in the Northeast as it is the part of their food culture. Mr Rijiju’s statement came in the aftermath of a protest against the visit of Amit Shah, BJP’s president to the visit of North East. All the major political leaders of BJP actually openly said that they are not going to seek ban on beef in the Northeast.
Here lies the basic issue of beef eating, which as a habit and food culture, is accepted by the BJP leadership openly without any ambiguity. Though KiranRijju has detracted his own statement as a ‘beef eater’ claiming he was misquoted yet he defended that beef was part of north eastern culture. Now question is when BJP’s own leaders have accepted that beef eating is culture of many communities in India and not necessarily Muslims then why its leaders and ministers are unable to control them from raising the rhetoric of ‘gaumata’. What forced Rajnath Singh to say that he would ‘starve’ Bangladesh of beef eating? One respect Rijiju’s point that state should respect the ‘feelings’ of ‘majority’ community and therefore in the Northeast beef ban is unworkable as the majority community eats beef while in the other regions we should ‘respect’ the sentiments of the ‘majority’ community which does not eat beef. Unfortunately, Rijiju must understand that democracy today is not a ‘majoritarian’ rule but respecting the ‘sentiments’ of minorities too. A huge number of people in each state today, are migrants who bring their cultures and practices to those states. It is a well-known fact that minorities are not supposed to merge and assimilate their identities and cultural habits in the majoritarian cultural but allowed to develop their own. These are well-established laws internationally and respected here in India too. If majority in several states speak Hindi does not mean people have no right to promote Urdu language. If a majority of Indians are vegetarian or eat non-beef meet we respect their sentiments and not put beef in their plate. Nobody ask for beef in the house of those who don’t eat it. Nobody offer beef to any one who does not eat it and that is what we call ‘respecting’ the sentiments. The cultural respect is powerful in India more than anywhere else and people respect vegetarian people’s habits too.
The Central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan were more vegetarian in nature but there too it depended on communities. And communities too don’t have the same food habits everywhere. It is not that upper castes don’t eat meet or beef. There are so many of them who eat and there are hundreds of Muslims who are vegetarian but they is because of their choice and not of compulsion. Even among Dalits and Aadivasis the food habit is not the same. A number of communities used to do the skin tanning work in the north but did not eat beef but at many places they ate it. And it is not beef alone, the forest dwelling working masses of this country depended on forest and hence forest produce were part of their food culture. They used the entire edible meat as protein and that is why physically all these communities were stronger and hard workers. Hence it is a conspiracy of the power elite to deny people rights over their resources and ensure that they continue to fight for their basic needs too. The reason for BJP not shouting beef ban in Goa and Northeast is the low population of Muslims which will not give them chance to communalise the issue and gain politically. One must keep in mind that it is not just Christians who eat beef in Northeast but Hindus too hence BJP and Hindutva’s moral police can’t implement its brahmanical agenda in the northeast and hence keeping quiet and respecting the ‘sentiments’ of the people.
Food habits are part of our long nurtured cultural practices. It depends on the geographical environment of the region also. Vegetarianism actually grew with places where farmers kept cattle as pet and agricultural help but it is also a fact that aadivasis, Dalits and all those nomadic communities who lived with nature used to eat them. Today all the communities and their food producing resources are ironically in the hands of powerful corporate in the name of ‘development’. It is not just beef eating which has been denied to India’s indigenous people but they are also fighting for access to natural resources. Understand the economic reasons of India’s ruling brahmanical class using religious taboos to unleash its agenda for profit through business.
According to reports India was widely tipped as the topmost beef exporter in the world leaving behind Brazil and its beef exporter will record breaking this year as Russia too has approved India’s beef for its consumption. So beef i.e. buffalo meat, has actually left basmati rice far behind as far as exports from India is concerned.
A report in Times of India suggest that beef meet has recorded 13% increase in value of Rs 26,965 crore and its expected to cross over Rs 30,000 crore by the end of the year 2015. However there is a slight slow down as per the report but it is not due to any policy of the government but due to turmoil in the international market.
"The devaluation of Brazilian currency and problems in the re-export of buffalo meat from Vietnam to Hong Kong have affected Indian exports," said DB Sabharwal, secretary of All India Meat & Livestock Exporters' Association. Vietnam is the largest buyer of Indian buffalo meat, while Brazil is India's main competitor.’
The fact is that ban on slaughtering is not going to affect the export the buffalo meat as many in the market believe even today. We have to understand that the SanghParivar campaign is not to finish and eliminate 30,000 crore beef export business, many of whom may be their financiers. In fact, it is a careful strategy of the powerful companies owned by Jains and Marwadis who are in the business to promote this hysteria in India so that they can earn billions through exporting it. As per Times of India, PriyaSud, partner of Delhi-based Al Noor Exports feel that the Maharastra and other acts would be beneficial for exports.
"It could bring an end to illegal slaughter and raise the price for buffalo meat, thus proving to be beneficial for companies like us who are engaged in legal slaughter and export of buffalo meat," said With prospects of purchases from a big market like Russia and several countries like Egypt buying more Indian bovine meat, the company will have to increase the production to full capacity, she added.
The glaring facts are open now. India registered a growth of 44% in meat export mainly the buffalo meat and is exporting meat to over 70 countries with demand coming mostly from Russia, China and other South East Asian countries. As per Times of India reported on April 1st, 2013, ‘Uttar Pradesh is the top buffalo meat-producing state with 3 lakh tonnes in 2011. At least 70% of the buffalo meat is exported. "Our meat is lean and cheaper. We supply halal meat, which is preferred in Gulf countries," said Surendra Kumar Ranjan, director of Uttar Pradesh-based Hind Agro Industries’.
Bovine meat export is a huge business like any other export as it gives you big income. In India it remained food of the underdogs as they can afford to pay for it. Unfortunately it is not like sugar or onions where export created shortage at domestic level became an election issue and therefore government had to stop the export of these essential commodities. The underdogs of Indian society are not the Brahmins, Marwaris or Jains whose ‘sentiments’ the government is too much concerned about, but the poor Muslims, Dalits and Aadivsis who have regularly faced state ‘abduction’ of their resources. Years ago the aadivasis had access to minor or major forest produce like Anwala, Mahua and bambooshoots but now they cant have that. Most of these produce have gone to private corporations making the lives of indigenous people more miserable. As a child of the mountains, I enjoyed eating vegetable of fresh bambooshoots which was one of the most delicious food in Uttarakhand known as ‘banskils’ apart from many other local forest produce but today the forest department will now allow to access these. Our life has been snatched by the big corporations in the name of ‘development’ and poor people are being pushed to believing in ‘Gods’ for the ‘ill-fate’. So snatch people’s resources, hand them to crony capitalists and suppress people’s voice through either sending religious pontiffs to these regions or if they too fail to curtail the rebellion then the armed police to kill. It is not without any reason that Madhya Pradesh government has stopped providing eggs in the mid day meal to school children since the Jain community complained against it. It is shocking as this country has diverse people and much more than the Jains and Marwadis. Why should the government deny the eggs to Aadivasi children? How are Jains getting offended with Aadivasi eating eggs?
India is a signatory to all International treaties related to eliminate hunger, poverty and malnutrition. In 1996, at the World Food Summit in Rome, Heads of States of various countries adopted a definition of Food security, ‘“Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient,safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”
This definition is again refined in The State of Food Insecurity 2001: “Food security [is] a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
The loud noise over beef issue is basically an attempt to hide the dirty fact from public life that on the one side it is an issue to keep the politics of polarization continue in the election so that all the non Muslims are kept ‘united’ under one umbrella and their contradictions gets eliminated under the big umbrella of Brahmanism while helping the ‘exporters’ to peacefully engage in their ‘work’. The question we ask why beef is a stick to beat Muslims saving the powerful beef exporting lobby ? Who are these beef exporters and its powerful lobby ? I hope I need not to write things here as I have already provided you their ‘statement’ about why the ban help them ? One thing is clear that beef may be a food habit of Muslims and many others like Dalits and Aadivasis, it’s the business for those who most of the time claim that they cant even kill an ‘ant’ and are absolute ‘vegetarian’. Its important for them to know that vegetarianism is not synonymous to ‘goodness’ as they think. If they are so much faithful to their ‘religion’ and ideology then they must leave their ‘export’ of beef and other meat product. Why should Muslims and Dalit face the tyranny of the Indian state when the leather shoes are not produced by them but by Batas, Action, Mesco and other companies who are definitely not owned by Dalits or Aadivasis. Definitely, this leather is not of lion or goat. Let the anti beef campaigner do campaign against all kind of leather product and start a dharna at the business houses of these people who produce them. Its not possible as here lies the reality of the corporate religion nexus. Habits, culture, principles, ideologies are meant for poor but for these ‘sellers’ it is profit even if they have to sale the sentiments of the people and lit a fire to kill people if that give them business. The right wingers in India will never touch an issue which is ‘economically’ as well as politically loss making. Beef ban and the noise subsequently help it both the way, a booming business of export and rich crop of hatred to harvest during the elections. Shame!
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