By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
Hinduism calls for the protection of all lives, human and animal. How can it be achieved by ‘protecting’ cows and killing people?
In August 2016 also, Prime Minister Modi had castigated the ‘fake’ cow protectors, for the first time, as “people hell bent on destroying society and disturbing national unity”. But nothing hindered the cow vigilantes. Therefore, there has been severe criticism of PM Modi’s ruling party of not doing enough to stop the cycle of violence, terror and torture in the name of gau raksha. Clearly, now it would not be enough again to only criticise the cow vigilantes in public.
But it is gratifying to note that Modi’s fresh castigation of this cycle of religious violence echoes the basic tenet of Hinduism. “Non-violence is our way of living and killing human beings in the name of gau bhakti (reverence for cows) is unacceptable,” Modi said.
It is commonly held that those inclined towards the Modi government maintained silence over the tragic incidents of Muslims being killed at the hands of the gau goons. More deplorably, some ideological adherents of Hindutva have reportedly justified the killings in the name of protecting the holy cow.
At a time when the fanatics within the Hindu philosophy are striking against the universal values of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma), progressive and pluralistic Hindus can only empower the collective consciousness of the nation. Today, strong voices of progression and sanity from among the priests and practitioners of Hinduism and Islam are required to tackle the “collective cowardice” endangering the country’s ethos. However, this moral duty of mainstream Hindus and Indian Muslims is long overdue.
While beef consumption is not desirable in Islam, as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) eschewed it, it is not prohibited in Hindu scripture either. Several authentic Vedic references approve of meat consumption as neither desirable nor mandatory in Hinduism. There is no denying that fact that mainstream Hindus hold cow protection as sacred to their religion. But the true essence behind this Vedic postulate is completely missing from the common precept and practice.
Actually, a large part of the blame for the cow violence should go to the Hindu and Islamic priests–Pandits and Maulvis– who have cunningly hidden their scriptures’ peaceful references from the masses. Had they been common knowledge among the mainstream Hindus and Muslims, the extremist fringes, whether the gau rakshaks or the radical Islamists, would not have a place in the pluralistic Indian society.
Both Hindu leaders and Muslim intellectuals have failed to raise a strong public awareness of the authentic scriptural exhortations on cow protection (gau raksha) in Hinduism or cow slaughter (gau kashi) in Islam.
In reality, neither the Quran nor the Hadith, the two primary sources of Islam, endorse the eating of bovines, let alone the slaughtering of cows. Thus, the false significance or sanctity attached to eating beef in Islam has to be rebutted among the Muslim masses. Imams and Islamic clergy must explain as to why beef consumption is neither obligatory (wajib) nor mandatory (fard) in the Quran. But Muslims, in general, are oblivious to the basic Islamic diktat regarding food consumption. The Quran clearly states that eating beef is not recommended for Muslims. It is only allowed only if the people of other faiths have no problem with it, as it can be inferred from these two verses in the Quran (2:168) and (5:1).
But regrettably, like the common Muslims, many Hindus are equally unaware of their scriptural references on beef consumption. They are not cognizant of the true essence behind cow protection in Sanatan Dharma, which is clearly enunciated in Chandogya Upanishad. It goes like this: “Atha yat tapo danam draavam ahimsasatyavacanam iti ta asya daksindh” (‘Austerity, almsgiving, uprightness, harmlessness, truthfulness; these are one’s gifts for the priests’) (Hume 1977, 213). Thus, this verse enjoins ‘harmlessness’ or non-violence–as the sole objective of the cow-protection–upon Hindu priests and thereby, all followers of the faith. But the “harmlessness” is not confined here only to the cows and animals. It is, rather, an inclusive doctrine which strongly calls for the protection of all lives–both human and animal. So, how can the purpose be achieved by “protecting” the cows by killing human beings? In fact, the self-styled cow protectors of today’s India, which PM Modi has denounced as ‘fake’ gau rakshaks, have practically outlawed this Hindu doctrine on the pain of death. Since a large number of Hindu practitioners are unaware of the actual Vedic doctrine of cow protection, they fall prey to the fringe elements. Had they learnt that the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad permits a category of people to eat rice cooked with beef, they would not allow anyone going haywire in killing the alleged beef-eaters in the name of cow-protection.
It is about time the progressive and pluralistic Hindu majority of India unravelled the truths from the Vedic scriptures while reforming the social flaws that have crept into the community as part of the misplaced religiosity.
But what is more unsettling is that liberalism and theological progression which reformist Indian Muslims are trying to bolster in Islam, has succumbed to the puritanical and toxic religiosity in Hinduism now. And this gradual fall of Hindu liberalism is an inevitable result of the rising religious bigotry which is patently clear from the huge sanctity attached to cow worship. Ramachandra Guha has succinctly pointed it out: “Hindu liberalism, once so vigorous and on the ascendant, is increasingly besieged, as the leadership of the community passes into the hands of bigots and reactionaries… Thus ever larger numbers of Hindus ‘seem to have locked their sensibilities with a huge padlock and have thrown the key away’. It has become difficult to open that lock. If you choose to break it open you are considered an enemy of Hinduism and an anti-Hindu person’….”The most emphatic evidence of the victory of Hindu bigotry over Hindu liberalism is the enormous importance given by the ruling party to the worship of the cow”, he writes in his op-ed piece for Hindustan Times.
First posted on newslaundry