Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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The Politics of Beef is Behind the Country’s Failure to Come Together as a People

Recently five players of the Indian cricket team playing in Australia were supposed to have ordered beef while at a restaurant there. Eyebrows were raised and the question arose again on whether in a large country like India, have we understood each other enough to remain known to the values that we have espoused in this country for many ages. The country surely seems to be troubled, more by the confusions caused by various religions available here, rather than people in any of the religions becoming wiser, amiable in co-existence or just simply being good citizens and enjoying a good mentally and physically healthy life as an outcome of their religious beliefs. The question of health is of importance for general well-being and food is an ingredient of sustenance, as much for the people suffering starvation of the physical body in the country, as for the nourishment that brings calm and sleep to the mind.
Let’s take up the matter of how important food can be in bridging the divide in people in this country, which have now become stark for some reasons. And let’s address head on the most confounding problem that has befuddled many great Indian minds without the benefit of having found any results. A problem that begins projecting in larger than life proportions whenever we thought too deeply about it is the matter of how, why and if at all beef eating is a real problem and how are we addressing it in this day. For if we keep recognising it as an unsolvable recurring problem, then that as a basis for reasoning, might always be the cause for the problem to survive each time we probe it.
Personally I feel it’s not such a big unsolvable matter that we have to leave our mind unconquerable by what is offered by well-constructed and knowledgeable information we can collect from all sides. Religiously it is of course a matter of significance that some religions keep away from beef eating. But the point is we are living together as neighbours in a world full of men, women, children and friends, and is it really practical to think that I could preach a total distance from a particular food, without the danger of falsely deceiving myself that I am being successful in doing so, when I am not in reality. For those who are too touchy, it’s good to remember this is a human condition, with people, environment, mind set and markets playing a role in how far we may be able to keep away from a food or its trace elements. How long can we keep unmindful of the world around us in the name of politics? Dead cows and calves are used in making leather footwear, and even in religious temples or other places we use drums. This is the Indian tradition of acceptance of reality. Our predecessors not much long back gave sanctuary to the Parsis who were renegades from another country, as the story goes.
In India we have a plethora of staunch religious practitioners, but also at the same time we have multitudes of other common people of all religious denominations, and they are all buying food from the same markets or farmers. In a religion we can’t be obsessed as it would go against the very tenets we preach, which is to save humanity spiritually. Saving animals, especially cows, is an accompanying factor for some, but if we end up quarrelling with fellow human beings the whole purpose of saving animals is defeated.
So the point is it’s not practical for even the most religious person to think he or she is keeping away from contact with things they don’t like as we are living in a world inhabited by men and women and others. The cook, the disciple; everyone is in contact with humanity and the way the market functions in reality. Why be in illusion or in the existing circumstances be too hopeful, lest we have to keep away even from our cooks or accompanists, or a practical reality that life is factual. If a religion keeps away from meeting people how will it be doing its duty towards humanity? We can’t close the doors to the world and expect to approach them in our time of physical or spiritual calling.
Now coming to religion and governance. Religion is never expected to interfere in the government. I was always under the impression that Jammu and Kashmir would be the first Muslim state of India as there are so many Muslims in India. That was not to come true although I still think all religions should get equal prominence in the country. Jammu and Kashmir as a state administered by Muslims would have been something to ease the Muslims burden of living as a minority people and also a challenge to their administrative capabilities. Something to feel happy about. The world would carry on as it is, but only thing is each religion will get more constitutional rights. That is true secularism in practice and not with it just remaining as a concept.
Then we have a number of various religions and communities in Northeast India. Now there also people have become distanced from each other, because people instead of dwelling on their cross-cultural affinities, were concerned only in cross-cultural differences. Here, the multi-cultural asset was over the long times unnecessarily turned into liabilities. What a shame and now the ruling government is finding it hard to address the religion-governance issue as the government is trying to keep to its right-centrist image with a staunch Hindu religious group as support from outside. Frankly it’s a secular government in India and we can’t have a religious group so close to the ruling government, unless it’s a necessity that comes from circumstances. So the BJP government should certainly do some rethinking on issues because there was and maybe still is a lot of hope from it under the political conditions in India in this few decades.
And here is where the matter of beef eating as an issue comes in. And also we cannot have the issue of beef eating, or issue of any other kind of food, as a political leverage, because a political party cannot fulfil the religious aspirations of the common man. Politics is limited and separate from religion as the Constitution of India also provides separate clauses for both subjects. Let any people of any religion have their own food. It’s not possible to control food like that by placing restrictions. For instance most Christian and Muslim children take beef from birth. They have a different body, mind, growth and physical and mental requirements. They survive on animal protein whereas other children mostly survive on protein from milk, pulses, etc. How do we deny food to any children or for that matter adults on the basis of religious segregation? That’s inhuman.
Beef is spiritual content for Christian and Muslim children because from the womb only they get strength from that. The villain Asvathama in the Mahabharata used a special weapon to try and kill Uttara’s son inside the womb. We as Hindus cannot make the mistake of cultivating such a negative feeling in the name of religion, to hate what is made naturally in the mother’s womb. Instead of trying to avoid contact with a particular food to the extent of being obsessed about it, it’s better to try and come nearer to all kinds of people and remain as humanity in spite of any shortcomings we may have. Trying to segregate on lines of food, if anyone’s doing it, is not a plus point but a false concept to grow on in the times we live. We can only volunteer if we like not force.
There are so many communities of people in India that it’s impossible to relocate each communities’ likes and dislikes. That’s political overthinking and also you might not get the votes due to this the next time around, when you approach as politicians, and not religionists, which you aren’t according to the Constitution. It’s better to concentrate on needs instead. India’s a poor country and we can’t waste time if the country’s to fulfil the targeted needs of its poor people. Those are issues we have overlooked and should be addressing. Religion is the only thing that can bring about a better and radical change in the world, but we are creating problems for ourselves with this same powerful means for solving human problems. We can’t be so intolerant with each other, especially in India. Taking cow meat, or on the other hand denying it to people whose natural food it is, both cause violence of body and mind. It is better to avoid both in differing circumstances. People are born with different religions, and it’s better to respect the differences.

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