Yogendra Yadav addressing Swaraj Abhiyan members in Ahmedabad on 26 May 2015 (Photo credit - Swaraj Abhiyan)
New Delhi, 29 May 2015: Four days have passed since the rioting and arson in Atali village of Faridabad district in Haryana left over 200 Muslims homeless and over a dozen of them wounded, but ‘son of the soil’ Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan, a faction of Aam Aadmi Party, has not yet uttered a word on the violence in his home state. Crudely speaking, he could be making a ‘fine balance’ not to antagonize his potential voters from the majority community in Delhi’s neighbouring state which is set to be the venue for his electoral debut after leaving AAP.
The incident took place in Atali village on 25th May evening but Yadav was so busy in Gujarat event of his Swaraj Abhiyan that day that he could not say a word on the riot. But on 26th May also, his all-time active twitter and facebook pages remained silent on the riot but active on the Gujarat event. Similar were 27 and 28 May. It was only today i.e. 29th May when Yadav has 'woken up' – and that too just to retweet Swaraj Abhiyan’s post saying: “Swaraj Abhiyan has been trying to douse the fire in village Atali of Faridabad distt right from the day it erupted.” The text is followed by a link which takes one to Yadav’s facebook page where yesterday he had actually shared a Haryana lawyer Ramzan Chaudhary’s post on the Atali violence. It is clear: he or his group did not want to take any stand on this issue.
Was he really so busy that he could not take out a couple of minutes to clearly and directly denounce the communal violence in Haryana? Maybe. Or maybe he is behaving like a 'smart politician' who does not antagonize any.
Hasnu Khan at hospital in Faridabad
Till 5 PM on 25th May, almost everything was normal in this village of a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims. But what happened in next two hours that day has changed the look of the village for long and divided the hearts perhaps for years and decades to come. The loot, arson and rioting targeting Muslims in the Atali village once again signifies that the menace of riot continues thriving in India irrespective of which political party rules the country or states.
Muslim women from Atali village taking shelter at Ballabgarh police station
Dozens of homes, vehicles and shops of Muslims were ransacked and put on fire by a mob of the Hindu majority community as they were against the reconstruction of an old mosque whose title suit was contested in the court. Hundreds of members of the minority community had to flee their homes to save their lives while dozens of them were wounded as the rioters chased and attacked them with crude sharp weapons. Even four days after the rioting, over 200 people are still sheltered in the premises of Ballabgarh city police station.
one of several houses looted, ransacked and set on fire in Atali village
“Congratulations Maharashtra: It is now safer to be cow than a woman, Dalit or Muslim in the state”, a Tweet by anonymous but popular commentator @RushieExplains went viral on social media when the President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, signed into law a twenty-year old legislation banning the slaughter of cows, bulls bullocks in that state, making it the 23rdstate to criminalize the production or eating of beef and beef products, in fact the possession of the meat, a serious offence inciting a five year prison term. The irony was because the current punishments under Indian law 2 years for drunken driving, the sort indulged in by film stars and billionaires, 2 years for manslaughter, three years for theft, 5 years for cow slaughter, 7 years for conversions by priests, specially if involving Tribals and Dalits to Christianity. Indian law has no punishment for marital rape.
The cow as the holy animal of Hindus has always been a disputed belief. Prof D N Jha in his book ‘The Myth of the Holy Cow’ explains this misrepresentation of cow’s holiness. Rigveda has references of cow being one of the most commonly consumed food item among the Brahmins. The practice of cow slaughter was an integral part of the Aryan cult. Jha writes cow and bull meat was one of the favourite delicacies of the Hindu deity Indra. Swami Vivekananda, whose name is now a chant in the corridors of power said: ‘You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.’ [Vivekananda speaking at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, USA (2 February 1900) on the theme of ‘Buddhist India’, cited in Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 3, (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1997), p. 536]. Further research sponsored by the Ramakrishna Mission established that “Vedic Aryans, including the Brahmanas, ate fish, meat and even beef. A distinguished guest was honoured with beef served at a meal. Although the Vedic Aryans ate beef, milch cows were not killed. [C. Kunhan Raja, ‘Vedic Culture’, cited in the series, Suniti Kumar Chatterji and others (eds.), The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol 1 (Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission, 1993), p. 217].
Not many Indians, even if they are non-vegetarians, can really afford meat of any kind in the manner that it is consumed in the rest of the world where the flesh of animals, birds or fish is the main staple, and starch, grain or potato, and vegetables the accompaniment. In South Asia, the starch is the staple, and the protein whether flesh or from pulses, the condiment to make it palatable or moist. This has to do with the purchasing capacity of the people, rather than any dietary preferences. And unlike the West where prime cuts of quality beef can be really expensive, the meat of the buffalo, the old and exhausted cow and bulls and bullocks of no further use to the farmer or tradesman are butchered, is about the cheapest protein consumed by religions and ethnic minorities and the Dalits. But even then, the consumption figures are low.
The decision to curtail or ban the meat of the cow, then, is a matter not so much of faith, or economics, as of practical politics, even though the governments claim that bovines enrich the soil and the environment by helping farmers on synthetic fertilizers. The argument is easily countered by critics who point out that marginal farmers can hardly afford to take care of cattle no longer useful as milch or draught animals who then are turned out to die miserably of starvation.
The Congress was the first to poeticize the cow, so to say, and Mahatma Gandhi and his peers in the early 20th century used it to full measure. It would be remembered that the electoral symbol of the cow for years was a pair of bullocks under yoke, succeeded later by a cow and calf. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has hijacked the iconography and the political symbolism. The general elections, and the elections to the state assemblies, some of which the BJP won, culminated in the humiliating drubbing in the Delhi polls. The one cheerful strain through the last year has been the fact that the core vote share of the BJP has remained at just over 30 percent, or a third of the voting public. It is this core that the BJP has to preserve as it cobbles coalitions and economic arguments to win in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It desperately needs to win big in these two mammoth states which send a good number of members to the Rajya Sabha where the BJP government is in a minority and has been defeated on the Vote of Thanks to the Address of the President. With UP and Bihar in its fold, it can in the next two years get a majority in the two houses of Parliament and be able to enact ay law it wants to. The emotional appeal of the cow will be very useful, even if the misogynist statements of some RSS luminaries put off a section of the people now supporting the party.