That the much-loved cow is the centre of debate — and controversy — in India today is not new. The animal has come into the national discourse many times before. This time though, the vigour and the support behind making it a prestige as well as religious issue is much stronger. It helps those who are behind such a movement that the government is supportive and many elements of the Sangh Parivar, of which the BJP is its political arm, are pushing forward their agenda much aggressively.
At the time of writing, Goa is hosting the national convention of Hindu organisations who are bent on achieving their desired result. Goa was venue in this same month two years ago. The cow is unfortunately the focus of this right-wing brigade who has a larger focus of making India into their vision of Hindu Rashtra. This, in fact, is a political dream and the (Rashtriya Swaysevak Sangh) RSS and its sister-organisations are prodding this forward with determination and single-mindedness. Till the dream is realised it will remain a dream.
For those not subscribing to the Sangh Parivar view, this dream is unfolding as a nightmare. The violence and the chaos that has so far swept this land is alarming. Only the insane will have not realised the dangers of India turning into hell if ever the Hinduvta dream comes true. The secular idea of India is at stake. India is not made up of just hardline Hindus but many communities who believe in conformity with the constitution that guarantees individuals certain freedoms, including the freedom of choice what to eat or what not to eat.
It’s saddening that this issue of cow ban is dividing the nation. The nation survives with many fissures, from communities to castes, from rich to poor, from urban to rural. There are political divisions that run deep, almost to the point that it renders apart the fabric of India. The political mix is portent and ready to explode any moment. Many states have deplored the what the cow ban has done, and are defying the Central government’s right to impose such as ban. The cow-vigilantes have run amok and the state machinery in BJP-ruled states is numb to such atrocities.
Perhaps, the cow ban will drive political parties on the other side of the debate into a frenzy. As it happened before and is happening now, the supporters of each party, either collectively or single, will join in the battle. There won’t be peace in the land. But do the politicians who fan the fires of hatred care? Right now, the death of hundreds of farmers and their problems must be addressed. No point in demanding that cow-slaughters and cow-eaters be hanged. We all must hang our heads in shame at the pitiful state of the farming families.
The whole issue of religion in India is encapsulated well in the book, India’s Agony Over Religion, by Gerald James Larson, professor of history in the department of religious studies, university of California. It came after the tumultuous event of December 6, 1992 when the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was destroyed by kar sevaks of the Sangh Parivar. The nerve-shattering and shameful event is back into the public space with the same forces promising to launch an agitation to get a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, the mythical birthplace of Lord Ram.
What made the judiciary wake up again to re-open the case against the alleged conspirators is not fully understood, though the case should have been settled one way or the other in a short time after the incident happened. Could it be that those who hate Lal Kishan Advani, the great charioteer, was sacrificed for whatever reasons? Advani has suffered enough humiliation, shunned to the margins by the powers-that-be.
Advani’s Rath Yatra was indeed a chariot of fire, as India burned in the wake of the Babri Majid destruction. Re-opening the case has also re-opened the old wound. It is bound to inflame the neo-Hindu nationalist movement, of which bright sparks are already seen on the Indian horizon. The nationalism debate that’s currently raging across the nation can best be summed up as the frustration of those right-wing laggards pushed into the cauldron of national emotions. Samuel Johnson rightly said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, though implicitly he was talking about false nationalism.
We have Kashmir as the flashpoint, ever burning and ever disturbing our spirit of nationhood.
The All-India Hindu Convention has sounded a battle-cry for having the Ram Mandir as a short-term goal and Hindu Rashtra by 2023. In reminds me of the booklet brought out by Frontline (a fortnightly from The Hindu group), What is this Hindu Rashtra? by Sitaram Yechury, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Yechury has been a thorn in the BJP’s side. The booklet examines the “dangerous ideological basis as well as the nature and implications of the Hindu Rashtra challenge…” Since the bogey of Hindu Rashtra has been raised again, it definitely puts all those who believe in India’s secularism on alert.
It was a long time ago that — 1939 — that We or Our Nationhood Defined came out and served as a launchpad to the aspirations of the Rashtriya Swaysevak Sangh (RSS). Written by Madhav Sadashiv Golwakar, who was the second supreme leader of the RSS, it became the bible (oops) of the hardcore activists in the forefront of turning India into a Hindu nation. Called “Guruji” in his lifetime, Gowalkar was an ideologue that spouted his narrow vision of India. He had his own “guru”, and that was Adolf Hitler who sent thousands of Jews into gas chambers. He wanted to get rid of other Indians, that is the Muslims, Christians and other minorities, so as to make India the homeland of Hindus only.
Now that we hear the chant of Hindu Rashtra again, those of us who have trust and faith in ourselves to keep India as it is, a secular democracy, must resist by whatever means to deflect this nefarious and dangerous idea. The idea of India that has come down to us should remain intact, firm and undiluted. This India lives in its constitution. The forces of communalism, negativism and regionalism must be turned away so that India can become a model nation where all communities and races live together as a united family. Nation-building and unity-building should be top priorities.
(Eugene Correia is a senior journalist who worked for The Hindu and The Free Press Journal)