Monday, November 9, 2015

Beef Ban in mutton loving Kashmir

"The Idea is to fill the environment with communal sentiment and then cash on it electorally"

By: Salman Nizami

The raging debate over beef, which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has very subtly ignited to win over the majority sentiment, baffles me. The ruling party may like us to believe that India is composed of two conflicting groups of people, viz., those who consume beef and those who detest such practice. But, the truth is that even among the Muslims, at least in my state Jammu and Kashmir, not many eat beef. Mutton and chicken remain the preferred non-vegetarian platter in most Muslim households. The valley as well as Jammu has never really witnessed any confrontation from the Hindus, of even a miniscule scale, over the consumption of beef.
Although I was born in a Muslim majority district in Jammu, my parents always advised me against eating beef. In fact, so grave was my parents’ aversion for beef that I would often escape going to get-togethers or marriage parties where beef had been cooked. On one occasion, when I unknowingly gulped in some beef-made snack while hanging out with friends, there was a ghastly countenance on my face. My friends were startled. They asked me, “Are you a non-Muslim?” as I quickly puked out the substance from my mouth. “Beef is allowed in our religion. Why do you then not eat it?” they questioned.
I recounted them an incident from my childhood, which had kept me away from consuming bovine meat. I was holidaying in Banihal during the summers. One day, I and my friends went out for a walk through the foothills of the surrounding mountains. I bumped against the police head of our town, shook hands with him and moved ahead. But a few steps and I overheard a vehicle carrying bovines being stopped by that officer.
The vehicle owner came out with a pensive look and told him, “Sir mere ko do nakoon pe pehle hi... Aap maaf karo (Sir, I have already paid at two check-posts. Please spare me).” But the officer did not relent. I knew he was being forced for speed-money. The vehicle was allowed to move only after the poor man dished out quite a few Gandhi notes, probably of 100s, but I could not see from a distance.
The next day, I saw the vehicle unload the animals at a market place not very far from the town-centre. Most of these bovines were rather old. Two of them were so ill, that they could hardly move. They had wounds in their body that was not covered. Flies were constantly sitting on their bleeding skin. They had to be pulled out. A local broker bought the bovines at Rs 6,000 per animal. Next day, those bovines, including the two suffering ones, were slaughtered and their meat was sold.
“This is the reason why we do not eat beef,” I told my friends. And this is the same reason why most Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir do not eat beef. Bovines in India are unhealthy. In Jammu, cows which are suffering from prolonged illness or are very old are slaughtered. Sometimes, they are sold at least a full day later after they have died. They are shifted from nakkahs in different cities and brought to Jammu. If you eat them, there is a considerable chance you may fall sick.
In India, beef is banned in many states. In J&K, it is banned since Maharaja Hari Singh’s time. Nevertheless, India tops in beef export. In fact, the government provides subsidy for this business. It has thrived as those responsible for enacting the anti-beef laws are happy collecting bribe and let things go on. I have rarely seen any beef-export smuggler getting a life imprisonment or even a much lesser sentence. There are thousands of illegal slaughter houses in India, including those in BJP-ruled states, which are flourishing. Clearly, the saffron party is not serious about stopping them. Why is then such a fuss about beef ban now?
Well, it is more of a political posturing by the BJP. The crucial Bihar Assembly elections are about to happen, and if BJP loses it, it will become evident that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s one and a half year rule has been lacklustre. BJP needs to win this poll and what better way can it think of other than mobilising the Hindus on communal lines. Beef ban is just a tool for that larger objective. The idea is to fill the environment with communal sentiment and then cash on it electorally.
They banned beef in J&K too, although there are very few shops here that sell beef openly. There is not a single slaughter house in the state for bovines. We in Jammu and Kashmir have always respected the sentiment of the other community. We have never ever made a spectacle out of beef eating as it would annoy the Hindus. We have always imposed self-regulation on ourselves. And that’s the only way, harmony could be achieved. It cannot be achieved by applying coercion over one’s choices.
Hindus living in Kashmir have been never asked to abstain from drinking alcohol or any other activity that is considered ‘haram’ for the majority Muslim community. Father of nation Mahatma Gandhi, my grandfather tells me, was himself against imposing such blanket restrictions on any community. He never encouraged people who sent him letters pressing for banning beef. He upheld the secular principles of our state which mandates that religious dogmas cannot be the guiding force for policy-making. But, as the RSS is seeking to transform our nation from Gandhi’s India to a totalitarian India, we see Dadri like brutalities happening. We are also seeing the prime minister’s grisly silence over such communal acts. But then, hatred has never conquered over love. Gandhi and the Congress party have laid the foundations of this nation on bricks made of love and brotherhood. However hard the RSS and its subscribers in Delhi may try, they will fail miserably in shaking this foundation. India’s people will themselves tell them that this foundation is unshakable.

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