Beef ban: Don’t laugh, but there could be a conspiracy to turn India vegetarian

Squeeze the supply and the beef goes off the plates. How ingenious can it get! Actually, we should have seen it coming. After three years of hullabaloo over the cow, led by gau rakshaks, groups of vigilantes known to be sympathetic to the ruling dispensation, the government has finally hit where it matters, and cleverly too. The rules announced by the Environment Ministry to regulate the sale of cattle in livestock markets effectively means that it would be more difficult for beef to reach the kitchen.

Beef-eaters can cry their hearts out. But the option to shift to buff — buffalo meat — from beef is out too. Under the new rules, the definition of cattle includes not only cows but also bulls, bullocks and buffaloes, among others. They can source animals for slaughter from farms directly but then they will have a lot of explaining to do to the vigilante groups along the route to their destinations. As earlier incidents suggest, some might even end up dead.

The move seems to be in sync with some larger agenda.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Let’s not be led into believing that cruelty is the issue. If that were the case then chicken, goats, pigs and smaller creatures would also come under the expanded definition of "cattle". That some cattle could still be killed despite the new regulation rules out "cruelty" as the consideration behind the government's move. The notification comes under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, a smart idea to bypass the states, which are constitutionally mandated to decide on cow slaughter.

The argument that the move is meant to eliminate the middlemen and facilitate a direct transaction between farmers and slaughterhouses does not hold much water either. The middlemen will still be in demand and perhaps more than before because transactions, with so many rules and cow protectors around, won’t be easy. The contention that such rules were necessary to provide a more hygienic living condition for cattle in the livestock markets and farms, is also not a compelling one. This could be managed easily at the micro level with strong instructions to the stakeholders.

So what gives? Well, the move is a logical progression of the din over beef and cow in the last three years. Throughout the incidents of violence by cow vigilantes across the country — from the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri in 2015 to the killing of Pehlu Khan in 2017 — there was an agenda at work. It is easy to connect the Sangh Parivar’s veneration for the cow with the activities of the cow protectors. They all reside under the same ideological umbrella. Also, that neither Muslims nor the sections of Dalits, who have been beef-eaters and involved in business activities around beef, are a favourite of the ideological parivar is not coincidental either.

The cow part is understood, but why buffaloes and other animals? They don’t carry the traditional religious significance that the cow does. In that sense, they should not be of much value to the champions of the cow. We haven’t heard of someone getting killed over the "other" animals, or someone taking up their cause with passion. Is there a larger game plan at work? It’s a wild guess, but there could be people trying to turn the whole country vegetarian. And, they may soon find ways to get all the non-vegetarian food off the menu, officially at least. Of course, they will have enough support from the Brahminical crowd to find momentum.

It’s a guess, alright, but then going by the current dominant tendency to intrude into the lifestyle of others and coerce them to accept a certain viewpoint, it does not appear so wild. A government inclined to playing ball with the noisiest may accede to the demand that the whole country should go vegetarian. Of course, it would say it’s sensitive to people’s sentiments but the government would still find ways to squeeze the non-vegetarian food off the plates at the dinner table. Think of traditionally beef-eating people in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Kerala and imagine them being asked to shun a food habit of centuries. Nothing is impossible.

Will there be a stop to this? That’s anybody’s guess.


Updated Date: May 30, 2017 20:57 PM

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