Ever since the Rajasthan High Court judge made public, his suggestions on declaring the cow, the national animal of India solely based on his inner voice and also went a step further to enlighten us on his knowledge of the non-existence of sexual intercourse between peacocks and peahens, social media is in a frenzy with memes and jokes on the judge’s absurd statements. For all those who feel like India is a bad comedy show but still can’t help laughing, you need to snap out of it now.
This is not to undermine the creativity behind the humour, which should continue as it is vital for our democracy. But we should not loose sight of the tragedy that is playing alongside this comical fest. I get this really bad feeling in my gut that the issues of importance are clearly forgotten by frivolous and irresponsible statements made by characters that are introduced into this bad comedy at various points and we are caught unaware as it is cleverly orchestrated.
The most recent rules introduced by the Environment Ministry on the ban of sale of cattle for slaughter, at markets in the name of cruelty, is very suspect. While there were some heated reactions to this including from the Kerala Chief Minister, the momentum of dissent that this non-transparent and sketchy move by the Government required, died down quickly. Even for those self-proclaimed pious Indians, this move is worrying as it comes at a huge cost to our farmers and the meat industry. 90% of the meat industry relies on these markets for supply and in 2014-15 alone this industry brought in a revenue of INR 30,000 Crores based on export of buffalo meat.
The farmers on the other hand have built a model on the sale of these animals and their ability to buy a new animal which is more effective on the farm for tasks like ploughing. But the Government by simply using the word cruelty has undermined the part of economy that depended on the sales of these animals in market places. What the Government hasreally done, is further alienated people on the margins and given a nod to cow vigilantism and the violence that accompanies it.
Dr BR Ambedkar suggested that the food hierarchy in India segregates people into those who do not eat meat, those who eat meat but not beef and at the bottom those who eat beef. This food segregation is closely linked with the Hindu caste system which used food choices, like eating beef to outcast other religions and communities like the Dalits. The NSSO data tells us that 70% of the beef eating population is Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the historical reason is, that it was the most easily available food. Sometimes the cows was the only available source of protein or even food for Dalits who were on the margins of society and unfortunately they still are. It seems like archaic methods utilized by interest groups 1000s of years ago to ostracize people is now back with a bang, but in a more sophisticated form of a law. And all of this has happened without our knowledge,who in some way will be impacted by this.
When a few people realised the damage that the Government’s Rules could cause to food security and livelihoods, they had only started raising their voice when conveniently an interview of a non-consequential judge appeared everywhere on a suggestion he made to the Central Government as part of an order. The anger that was rising in all of us is now converted to a mere joke.
The violation to our food choices merits us hitting the streets in protest but that is now reduced to a meme with many likes and shares. But the fear is that while we laugh and ridicule the Government and its right wing trolls, people of less privilege will be lynched as they consume foodand carry out trade involving the holy cow. And this is not because they are rebels but its what they know.
Again this is not to remove humour from the equation which is by far one of the best ways to communicate, but is to express an anguish that India is moving in a frightening direction and its all happening with much ease. While we laugh and the Prime Minister fulfills his dreams of traveling every corner of the world, India is changing much faster than we all imagined. Wake up!
Neha Saigal Development Consultant