The Truth about Cow Slaughter in India

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There  are three issues related to beef consumption and cow slaughter. One  is the British origin of cow slaughter. Two, if slaughter of cows is  sanctioned by Islamic scriptures and three, the environmental impact  of beef consumption. Sanjeev Nayyar sheds light on the matter.

Now  that things have cooled down a bit, it is time to look at the beef  consumption issue in an unemotional way.

My  article looks at three issues. One, based on a book by noted Gandhian  Dharampal about the British origin of cow slaughter. Two, if  slaughter of cows is sanctioned by Islamic scriptures since  willy-nilly Muslims have been cast as villains in the piece; Three,  the environmental impact of beef consumption.

An  excerpt from the preface of the book The  British Origin of Cow-Slaughter in India authored by Dharampal and T M Mukundan, published by the Society for  Integrated Development of Himalayas:

'Before  they came to India, Asian Muslim immigrants diet consisted of eating  some type of bread with flesh of sheep, goat and camel. On festive  and religious occasions (esp. Bakri Id) Islamic tradition prescribed  killing and eating of goat, sheep and when there were seven or more  to share the feast a camel was sacrificed.'

'In  India, with time the slaughter of camel was replaced with cow. Later  on, as there was natural animosity between Indian people and Islamic  conquerors, the latter at times to humiliate local sentiments, began  to kill the cow to show the conqueror's power. Political necessity  induced many Muslim kings at various times to forbid cow slaughter.'

'It  can be reasonably assumed that there was very little cow killing  after about 1700 AD since the domination of Islam waned and converts  to Islam did not take to eating of cow flesh.'

'State-sponsored  and State-regulated slaughter of cattle would have started, depending  on British military requirement, sometime after 1750 AD. This  required professional butchers. Such butchers could to an extent be  had from the Muslim communities who engaged in such tasks or such  persons /communities who could be persuaded to become butchers of  cattle.'

'That  the Muslims continued to sacrifice the cow at least on festive  occasions like Bakri Id and they were made to feel that the job of a  butcher was honourable was also a basic political requirement of the  British rule in India.'

'But  for the British it was a matter of importance that the Muslims  assumed a separate identity, social intercourse with other Indians  reduced and with passing of time Muslims began to live separately in  distinct localities. Similar separation of persons of different  Christian denominations took place in Europe from about the mid 16th  century.'

'We  must thank Queen Victoria for having broadcast the truth about  widespread cow-killing in India, by the British, in her letter dated  December 8, 1893, to Indian Viceroy Lansdowne. 'Though the  Muhammadans' cow-killing is made the pretext for the agitation, it is  in fact, directed against us, who kill far more cows for our army,  than the Muhammadans'.

'The  anti-kine killing movement from about 1880-1894 was actually against  the cow-killing to supply daily beef to the over 1,00,000 British  soldiers and officers/civilians.'

'It  could perhaps also be that Muslim insistence on cow slaughter,  wherever it is said to have prevailed in India since 1880, has been  the result of British insistence that Muslims should continue to  observe what the British called the Muslim tradition of killing the  cow.'

'Such  a sudden increase in cow slaughter, along with the increased  impressment of strong bullocks to transport the British army whenever  it moved to a new location, greatly alarmed the people.'

'The  first major expression of Indian anger was given by the Kukas  (Namdhari Sikhs) and a few years later Swami Dayananda Saraswati and  other sanyasis gave the call for the stoppage of cow slaughter by the  British and suggested the formation of Go-samvarshani Sabhas. (Note  that when the British first conquered Punjab, they promised to  enforce Sikh Darbar's prohibition of cow slaughter.)'

'Though  suppressed in 1893-94 the anti-kine killing movement continued  haltingly till 1947.'

Like  the Aligarh Movement, encouraging slaughter of cows was one of the  many tools employed the British to accentuate the Hindu-Muslim  divide.

The  success of the British can be gauged from the fact that freedom to  perform cow slaughter was one of Mohammad Ali Jinnah's demands in his  correspondence with Jawaharlal Nehru.

During  the recent controversy, many learned people sought to justify the  consumption of beef today by saying Indians ate it thousands of years  ago. But what matters are the beliefs and traditions today, which are  about a thousand years old, rather than what happened 2,000 to 4,000  years ago.

My  second point is, why are Muslims perceived as consumers of beef,  where a small rumour can set off a violent reaction against the  community? Before getting to it, let's look at a recent incident in  Mumbai when a group of Muslims moved the Bombay high court to lift  the beef ban in Maharashtra for Bakri-Id.

Cow  slaughter had been banned in the state, and the new BJP-Shiv Sena  government got a law passed to include bulls and oxen too in the  slaughter ban.

For  those who don't know the origin of Bakri Id, here's a primer: 'It was  on this day that God decided to test the faith of Abraham. It so  happened, that Abraham, who was one of the Prophets of God, saw a  dream in which, the almighty commanded him to sacrifice his son.'

'Abraham  and his son both showed willingness to perform this ultimate  sacrifice and just after slitting his son's throat Ibrahim looked at  the alter, where he expected to find his son's lifeless body, he saw  a dead ram instead and his son was standing hail and hearty. God  delivered his son from death, as the duo had passed his test of  faith. Thus, to commemorate the devotion, spirit of sacrifice and  unquestioning faith in the almighty, Muslims perform animal sacrifice  and offer prayers, to mark this occasion' Source (external link).

Please  note, in this, there is no reference to slaughter of cow or bulls,  but only to a goat that had been sacrificed in place of Ibrahim's  son.

The  question then arises why, in September 2015, did 'sections of the  Muslim community petition the Bombay high court seeking a relaxation  on the complete ban on slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks for  three days from September 25 to 27, maintaining that slaughter was an  essential part of the Muslim religion'?

The  Bombay high court refused to grant an interim stay on the ban on  slaughter of bulls and bullocks for Bakri Id.

There  is no ban in Maharashtra, or elsewhere, of slaughter of goats and  other livestock, so what did the groups of Muslims want included in  the slaughter list? More importantly, why?

Dr  B R Ambedkar wrote in 1941: 'Islamic law does not insist upon the  slaughter of the cow for sacrificial purposes and no Musalman when  goes to Haj sacrifices the cow in Mecca or Medina'.

It  is well known and widely accepted that followers of Dharma (Hindus,  Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists) consider the cow to be sacred. Can  scholars of Islam tell India whether Islam sanctions the slaughter of  cows? Nothing like a good, healthy two-way debate.

We  need to realise that every culture has its own sanctity. For example,  in England they have similar sentiments with respect to horse and dog  meat. Even during the war, when there was a great shortage of food,  horse meat was never eaten.

Perhaps  the most important reason why consumption of beef needs to fall is  its adverse impact on the environment.

Brahma  Chellaney, strategic expert and noted author, recently wrote.

- 'Meat production is about ten times more water-intensive than plant-based calories and proteins, with one kilogram of beef, for example,      requiring 15,415 litres of water.
 - Meat consumption actually leads to more greenhouse-gas emissions annually (external      link) than the use of cars does.

But  even a partial shift in meat-consumption habits -- with consumers  choosing options like chicken and seafood, instead of beef -- could  have a far-reaching impact. Indeed, beef production requires, on  average, 28 times more land and 11 times more water than the other  livestock categories, while producing five times more greenhouse-gas  emissions and six times more reactive nitrogen.'

We  are already facing a water shortage in many parts of India. Water  tables are falling and climate change is affecting monsoon patterns.  Water is a bare necessity for every human being -- it does not  distinguish between followers of Dharma and others.

Sanjeev  Nayyar is the Founder, www.esamskriti.com

First  published Click here to view

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