Bp Thomas Dabre, Pune
Why is it that in the North, especially in the Hindi belt, the cow is considered so sacred that people are beaten up and killed in the name of protecting it? Why such frenzy?
There are many reasons for it. The sociological reason would be that India has been primarily an agrarian society where farming was crucial to the local economy. Cows are central to such economy. Secondly, milk is so precious for human life from childhood to the end. It is a complete food. Third, it is a matter of faith and a tenet of Hindu religion. In Indian society everything is divinized and sacralised. Snakes, trees, sun are objects of worship. This is because of the belief in monism or everything is identical with God, that is aham brahmasmi. Ultimately all reality is an expression of the divine. Basically they also admit sociological and economic significance in the secular sphere. But in the theological sphere it is their faith, their identification of god with all reality and the belief that all reality is expression of the ultimate divinity.
Is not the Indian community slowly moving away from agriculture?
That is quite evident now.
But are they not politicizing cow worship?
In India religion has now been politicized and politics has abused religion. Hindus form 80% of India’s population. So, appealing to Hindu sentiments can win a lot of votes. In secular democracy this is not justifiable.
What about secularity coming under threat?
It makes secularism vulnerable. Secularism gives everybody the freedom to practise the religion of their choice. If we impose a particular tenant of faith on all, that is not consistent with secularism. If Hindus want to worship cow as god, they are free to do so as an expression of their religious freedom. What is objectionable is it being imposed on those who disagree with it.
Is it not fundamentally an imposition of the food preferences of the high caste on the low castes, who account for a majority of the Hindus?
Hinduism is not a monolithic religion. There are so many shades, dimensions and features of it in the country. There are many branches, many schools and many spiritualities of Hinduism. Hinduism is a mosaic; all Hindus do not worship the cow. Dalit communities or harijans or low castes have no difficulty in eating beef.
Scriptures say in ancient India the cow was offered as sacrifice and its meat was eaten?
In the course of history things have changed. I was saying about the status of the cow in the present day situation.
India is slowly and steadily becoming a technocratic and scientific society. In such a society, won’t there be secularization of place and time?
You are right about the liberal, secular and scientific outlook of India. But my question is how many Indians have really imbibed that liberal, scientific and democratic view of life? That India is moving away from them is easily said. Our Indian leaders have made statements that many of modern scientific inventions are found in Vedic texts. You may recall Prime Minister Modi also has said so to the members of the scientific academy in Bombay, and some Hindu scientists themselves objected to that. For example, he said organ transplant existed in Hinduism and mentioned Ganapati as an example for it. There is a tendency to find scientific and technocratic basis for all Indian practices. Even as we rightly feel proud of our many eminent world class scientists and technocrats, we are dismayed at the promoting of cow worship by politicians. These are all contradictory and confusing things happening in the Indian body politic.
Are not the high castes using politics to impose their practices on the low castes and the rest of the people?
That’s a fact, but BJP’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind is not a high caste Hindu. This Brahmin culture of the high caste Hindus is also being internalized by all sections of Hindu society today.
There is a paradoxical problem there. The low caste people aspire to be high castes who have lower castes under them. Does it not represent a perpetuation of the slave-master template?
People always want to climb higher on the social ladder, but not necessarily on the basis of any intrinsic merit or value. Everybody wants to be more important than others. It is true also that the low castes want to be accepted by the high castes. Ultimately, in my view, superiority is not sought on the basis of intrinsic merit; rather, on a desire to be above others by birth. In my view, this is a sign of inferiority complex. You must value what you are. This is also evident in the way we Indians are trying to imitate the westerners. We don’t do so because everything that the westerners do have intrinsic value, but because we think westerners are higher than us. It is the valorisation of the values of those who are considered superior in society.
In the name of cow protection some are butchering and killing people. What value do they give to a human being?
It is absurd to lynch and kill people for eating beef or slaughtering cows. It is totally wrong and unacceptable. Those who do so should be immediately brought to court. They have no fear of the law.