Indian Hindu Cow as Political Animal

Recent outbreak of swine flu cases in india was due to the mutated strain but the on-going communal tension around the nation is more than just any mutated strain,for the religious manipulation is dominating its strain. Indians are being haunted by the basic questions around this new political animal of the nation (THE COW).

What exactly is India’s beef with beef? Is it really about the beef to begin with or the crass execution of the demonstration of power? Is the animal being (mis)used by the two polarities of the skewed political and religious ideologies of the rightwing Hindutva community?

Understanding the current scenario using politically correct statements would be a form of linguistic fascism. Hence questioning the recent communal riots, through a critical prism is much needed. The landslide use of power to promote the Hindutva religious ideologies by BJP (the ruling Hindu national party) is plaguing the nation, at the cost of oppressing anything and everything that does not comply with their religious ideologies. Is the power play of the privileged religious ideologues over others is becoming a common phenomenon across India?

On the 9th of October, 2015 a petrol bomb was hurled inside a truck while three people were asleep. Although the driver, Rameez Bhat, managed to escape, Zahid Ahmed and Showkat Ahmed suffered severe burns and were admitted to the hospital. A violent Hindu mob had attacked the truck on the suspicion of them smuggling cattles and slaughtering of the cows. One of the victims, Zahid Ahmed Bhat scummed to his injuries in Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi.

Another incident on the same day, 9th of October 2015 in Agra witnessed the same story. Rafeeq and Habib, were severely beaten by a violent mob on allegations of slaughtering a cow. The UP police filed an FIR against the two Muslim men against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The post-mortem, however, reflected a different story. The cow had indeed died of natural causes as was originally put forth by the owner.

The recent communal murder on 28 September 2015 in Dadri (Uttar Pradesh), a 50-year-old man Mohammad Akhlaq, was beaten to death and his 22-year-old son severely injured,got much media attenton. The aggressive Hindu mob attacked the family with swords and bricks after rumours spread via the announcement from a local temple about the family storing and consuming beef.

Following the communal attacks by the right wing Hindu mob on the Muslim , an article in RSS organ Panchayat said “the Vedas order killing of anyone who slaughter a cow. cow slaughter is a big issue for Hindu community. For many of us it is a question of life and death.”

Now, the religious justification of the law supporting criminalisation of cow slaughter by the Hindutva community does not allign with the historical and archaeological facts. Irony penetrates in the status symbol of the cow,of then and now, once researched extensively. The ancient Vedic literature suggested that the Gopatha Brahman describes 21 types of yajñas (sacrifices), the most important of which included animal sacrifice. The offering varied depending on which god was being propitiated Gods such as Indra had a special preference for bull’s meat while sacrifices to Agni were of both bulls and cows. Vedic traditions suggest that the Maruts and the Asvins were also offered cows. The Asvamedha and the Rajasuya yajñas all included animal sacrifice in large numbers. In Asvamedha, for instance, more than 600 animals were killed, and its end was celebrated with the sacrifice of 21 cows. The archaeological excavations reflect ample of empirical evidence for the same. Excavation at Lal Quill district Bulandshehar, [Source:Indian Archaeology 1969-70 A Review] conducted by the Archaeological Research Laboratory at Oxford, indicate a mean date of 1880 B.C found animal bones in large numbers. The cut-marks, present on many of them, suggest that meat was the staple diet. Evidence of some grains (cereal) suggested agriculture as a subsidiary occupation was also available (source: Beef eating in ancient India: Sanjeev sabhlok)

The Hindutva community should re-read the Vedas and the practices implemented in the era religion-wise any animal for that matter. If cow slaughter was a ritual being practiced during the Vedic era, then why the ban now? The role of the cow here is that of a swinging animal with politics and religion as its two polarities of the pendulum. As camouflage reveals itself, argument supporting the rise of Hindu nationalism and the privileged laws towards a particular religion is what’s at play, placing ‘others’ at the lowest denominator.

Communal aggression in India has witnessed the rise of incidents up by 24% and related deaths by 65%, since Modi’s rise to power in 2014. From the recent murder of a Muslim in Dadri for allegedly slaughtering a cow to the torching of the mosque in Ballabgarh, very few of these violent incidents got much media coverage. The latest data by the Union home ministry reflects the reporting of 287 communal incidents alone in 2015 (reflected data till May 31st 2015). Most of the victims were muslims and Christians. The response of the BJP (Hindu ruling party) towards the violence against Muslims has been highly disappointing, particularly that of the Dadri incident.

The communal lynching of a Muslim man was not justified,on the suspicion of slaughtering a cow . The status of the cow as an animal has been reformed into the political symbol via which the privileged religious ideologies is being endorsed. The political cow is being misused for the crass exertion of the political power of the skewed ideologues. What needs to be questioned is power of the impunity. What is plaguing India is the power to abuse and the abuse of the power without the fear of its consequences. The implementation of endorsing one privileged religion over another is an act of religious bigotry. If the condition is not corrected with just policies that operate with the zero-tolerance towards any civilian aggravating the communal riots, the nation shall forsee a tragic future.


Parul Verma is an activist, student and writer. She can be reached at