“The idea of India is against the intense consciousness of the separateness of one’s own people from others, which inevitably leads to ceaseless conflicts” – Rabindranath Tagore.
There are times, when the very fabric on which the Constitutional law has been spun, seems to have become so moribund, that it threatens to destroy itself solely by means of the very technicalities on which it is built. As the country reels from the internal injuries inflicted by the beef ban controversy that has taken major parts of the nation by storm, it seems as if we are perilously close to such a moment in history.
The Constitution has guaranteed us, as our fundamental right, the freedom to practice, profess, and propagate any religion of our choice (Article 25). Again, under Article 48, one of the Directive Principles of State Policy that the State has been instructed to endeavour towards, is “to organise animal husbandry and agriculture on modern and scientific lines, and take steps, in particular, to preserve and improve breeds, and prohibit slaughter of cows and calves, and other milch and draught cattle.”
As is known, the laws regarding Cow slaughter is different for different States. While some states have called for a complete ban on cow slaughter , others have called for only partial bans.
The beef ban controversy probably started out in Maharashtra , where the BJP-Sena Coalition banned the sale of meat in Mumbai and parts of Maharashtra during the Jain festival of Paryushan. In its wake, the other BJP ruled states of Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Punjab, banned the sale of meat, either wholly, or partly. The controversy regarding cow slaughter was further stoked in the sensitive region of Jammu and Kashmir, when the High Court Bench at Jammu strictly ordered the State police to ensure implementation of a colonial era law, namely the 1932 Ranbir Penal Code, banning sale of beef, after a petitioner argued that bovine slaughter hurt the religious sentiments of certain communities.
The High Court order was conflicted by another High Court judgement, allowing passage of a PIL against the said decision. The effect of the police order was widespread tension in the valley, something that experts fear may spread to the western UP region with the Dadri lynching case.
The Dadri lynching case cannot be looked upon as something that happened overnight. At the heart of the Mohammed Akhlaq killing is a group that has asserted, albeit violently, the claim not to be offended, and a legal regime that has, through anti Slaughter laws, given legitimacy to these laws. Being offended has become an extremely effective ground for curtailing freedom. We, as a society, have become obsessed with the fact that every other happening in the nation has something to be offended about, and respond violently to it. Not only has this served vested politico religious interests, it has had a deeper impact of complete polarisation on the basis of religion.
Now, the question arises, how and why did this occur?
Recent times have unveiled a new form of Hinduism- one that is tired of being seen as passive and tolerant, like a suffering docile life. It wants to be violent and aggressive. The new Hinduism prefers Durga and Kali to the demure Gauri. It looks at Shiva as Rudra and Bhairava , rather than Bholenath; all the while insisting, with violence, if necessary, on the values of vegetarianism and seva. This new form of Hinduism has come to be known as Hindutva. Hindutva stresses on formation of a sampraday, or movement , that would cleanse the country of anything that is deemed to be demeaning to the Hindu society. This new form of Hinduism, would go to any extent to defend the sentiments of the Hindu.
The rise of right wing groups with a slight militant incline has been a cause of worry for the Muslim and Christian communities. But this did not just happen overnight. One of the major reasons for this meteoric rise, was the newfounded institutionalised paranoia in the minds of the Hindu majority, a belief that innocent Hindi speaking Bharat needed rescue from the English speaking India, and from liberal, who equated Hinduism solely with casteism and orthodoxy. This apprehension was furthered in the 1980s, when the Congress government tried to appease Muslim orthodoxy, by even diluting a Supreme Court judgement for compensation to Muslim wives after divorce. The same did not happen in the Roop Kanwar sati case, where sati was declared a crime instead of a religious custom; in other words, the government didn’t bother to appease the Hindutva sampradaya. The Hindu majority did not want to take themselves as granted, which is probably when these fringe groups rose to prominence, fighting for the Hindu’s right to not be hurt or offended by any custom that is Anti Hindu.
When the secular nation state tilts in favour of one religion and seems to be ‘persecuting’ the other, there is bound to be a backlash. This is what we are facing now, a karma phala( karmic fruit) of the karma bija (karmic seed ) sowen by the Congress, on one hand, when it had unashamedly appeased the Muslim orthodoxy, and the liberals on the other hand, who endorsed rational credentials, by repeatedly projecting Hinduism as a violent and oppressive force.
The repercussions of this bias have been damning, to say the least.Many Hindu and Muslim fringe group have sprung up over the last 2 decades, each asking for protection of their own set of rights, each getting deeply offended by the smallest piece of criticism of their practices. The beef ban has probably been the culmination of the last 20 years of strife, that has caused the polarisation to go even further. As politicians lay stake over what is right and what is wrong over several ‘Gai pe Charchas’, the question remains, is it worth the fight?