Once upon a time there a lived an Emperor who ruled a vast stretch of territory of the great Ganges. One day on of his ministers advised him why doesn’t he consider making this great territory a land of Dar al-Islam? Wipe out all those who do not wish to embrace Islam! To this the Emperor replied “Only a foolish ruler in India would dare such a thing.” No wonder the Great Mughals ruled this country longer than any foreign rule could.
India has since the time immemorial been the land of diversity. Be it in terms of nature, culture, people ideas, food and the like. Its tolerance is reflected by the way of life it has professed over centuries. What astonishes me is the current debate in meat ban (previously beef ban). Earlier when I was interning at TISS, I had closely observed students fight for including beef in their college mess. In the end unfortunately the matter took an ugly and disturbing turn. Well I agree that preferences should be given to the culinary practices but can the same be dictated by the state?
Another news article which immediately appeared after the beef ban was the disturbing tale of a farmer caught in the nuances of bans. Debt ridden, struggling to raise money for his daughter’s marriage by selling his aged pair of bullock but he was aghast to see the grim reality after the ban. The market to which he travelled after a covering a long distance was found to be empty. No buyer was ready to take his bullocks even after offering it at throwaway prices. At last he gave it away free. Since then many hopes have been shattered.
Don’t judge me too soon, I am not trying to defend slaughter of animals by any chance but yes definitely criticize the ban. As the modern state should understand its prime function that of not shadowing personal liberty by giving prominence to one religious or social practice. Shouldn’t our aim be to head in a direction where our particular identities are detached from our rights? We have observed that religious practice of one religion could be in conflict with the religious practice of the other. But can we give preference to one over the other in a secular state like ours? Can one person’s religious freedom interfere with another’s food preferences?
Article 48 of our sacred Constitution does tell us to take appropriate measures to preserve and improve the breeds and prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. But we fail to understand the motive behind this provision. Can it be for sectarian politics? Certainly not! Should the free souls of India be forced to adopt a practice because state feels that a practice of one religion should dominate the lives of others? Should it not be out of public reason based more on rational thinking and ethical and moral issues involved in such practices? I am sure then many would understand why one needs to avoid eating beef or meat or egg for that matter.
In fact the recent meat ban does more harm than good. It violates our fundamental right of liberty, of choice and practices. It gives a blow to our secular fabric in more than one way, posing a threat to our national unity which is already under strain. The recent protest in many states will evidently prove the unrest. The ban will further add to the volatile atmosphere in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. And what about those who suffer economic loss in the whole process, of those whose livelihood depends on this sector. Are we offering those enough choices, enough alternatives, enough security? Don’t they feel the burden of such ban?
Further doesn’t it undermines the debate of promoting vegetarianism by giving the slaughter a communal form, by reducing it to a practice of one religion? I am vegetarian for many reasons and I strongly feel vegetarianism needs to be promoted. But my concern is if we reduce this issue to be a practice of one community it will breed insecurities among others and the essence of it will be lost. The two needs to be distinguished thereby.
Some argue that meat ban should be seen as a respect of other religious practices. May be yes! We ought to encourage such practices. But can respect come out of coercion? Can it be the result of showcase of power? It might just work the other way round. A genuine respect only comes with genuine understanding of the other culture which involves mutual exchange from both the sides.
And please let us not compare meat ban with liquor ban. We know the social implications attached with alcohol in India. If I say half of the domestic violence cases in India occur due to drinking issues, it will not be an exaggeration. Still at the end of the day even this has to be in a very reasonable manner.
The NDA government has the rare opportunity of joining the league of great rulers we have witnessed in the history of India who concretized the diversity of this country by respecting it, giving it protection and strengthening it. It can adopt a mature attitude by conserving and encouraging social harmony. It will be imperative to sight the recent wording of our apex court where it states that. “Meat ban is not the way to inculcate Ahimsa. It cannot be forced. It has to be appealed to in a different manner at another level. It is a fodder for elements who want to use it as reason for conflict.” Once again the Supreme Court has rescued us by making us realize what it means to live in a democratic secular country like India.
The current debate raises many questions in my mind. I would leave it to readers to answer them, to analyse it and thereby approach it more reasonably and rationally.
Also , Please catch this video by Dice media. it is quite interesting.