The beef against beef in multi-cultural India
A ‘beef-eating festival’ in most parts of Hindu-majority India was always going to be considered provocative.
Clashes and a stabbing sparked tension at Hyderabad’s Osmania University when a group of students demanded the inclusion of beef in the hostel menu.
Most Hindus consider the cow sacred and number of states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh ban cow slaughter, with Gujarat going as far as outlawing even the transportation of cattle without a special permit.
But many lower-caste Hindu ‘dalits’ and people from some parts of southern India and the North-East consider it an integral part of their diet, on par with other meat like chicken and pork.
Proponents of the ban justify it by saying it shows respect for the religious sentiments of the country’s majority community, while those opposed to it say the law is anti-secular.
Even in economic terms, beef is cheaper than other meat products and more affordable for the poor, and industries churning out beef products like leather shoes, belts, etc. are also major employment generators.
So the question is — should a democratic country like India put a blanket ban on a particular type of meat? Some would say the religious connotations and the extreme reactions it evokes justify it.
It’s ironic that India is the world’s second largest producer of leather garments, including cowhide.