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Here is a very simple reason why cow deserves a special protection law

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We have been witnessing the changing narratives of politics in India over the past four years, with various kinds of issues flying all across our news feeds, from the most outrageous to the most benign of things, landing in one controversy or the other. But, one issue that seems to have taken a permanent center-stage in our national politics is Cow. That most innocent of animals, is a topic of raging debates which show no signs of abating, a favorite topic of the detractors of current government, using Gau and Gau Mutra etc. as slurs against those who are well-disposed towards the current dispensation in any way.

While no one in their right mind supports any violence happening in the name of cow, an unbiased take has to be in light of the massive cattle theft and smuggling racket happening illegally over large parts of the country, the count being in millions, and in a country where law and justice are oftentimes, but just fancy terms. But, leaving aside the issue of self-styled vigilantes, the larger issue I want to talk about is the way a section of society tries to mock the tradition of giving the cow an exalted status, by large number of Hindus. The attack is not just on the vigilante violence but the entire concept of Gau Mata, as if that is somehow a backward, superstitious thought. No matter that our first battle for Independence started with Mangal Pandey giving his life on the issue of beef in the bullets, a Gau Rakshak in essence.

So, why is there this reverence for the cow in India? To answer that, we have to start from the larger context of an attitude against harming/eating animals in the Dharmic traditions of India, which essentially see divinity in all existence, and thus strive to cause the least harm possible to it. Even those Indians who eat meat, avoid it on special days in honor of their chosen Gods, be it Hanuman’s Mangal or Devi’s Navratra, thus affirming the moral superiority of the principle, even though they might not follow it every day of their life. But, the acknowledgement is what matters. You won’t find chicken being served in a Gurudwara!

India as an agrarian society, has had a lot of respect for the cow, as it had a big positive impact on people’s lives, it gave us milk, cow dung was/is used for cooking, among other benefits to society. So, it reached an exalted status. And since you are drinking milk, which you are effectively stealing from the calf, the only moral way to do that is by treating the cow as a mother, and not as something to be used and abused. This kind of attitude is coming out of the highest levels of human understanding of nature, and not some dogma.

It is also not that having laws for a particular animal is unique to India. Horse meat is banned in several US States, and there are many attempts to bring in legislation to ban it at a Federal level, as horse does hold a revered status in the Anglo-Saxon world. A similar attitude towards horse exists in the UK too.

The real crux of the matter is that since beef is a staple diet in much of the western world, protecting cow becomes an irrational thing to do in India, as all rationality must necessarily flow from the West to East.

Then there is the argument of Kerala or North East and beef. Yes, there are differences in attitudes within India, but that does not mean that those who do hold a certain attitude towards cow are irrational in any sense. In fact, Kerala has seen big cultural changes, being in close contacts with the outside world for trade, witnessing demographic shifts, and then ‘rational’ communist rule, out to build that perfect ‘sensible’ society from the rubble of old tradition.

In the end, some things are just part of a specific culture, and equating it with “blind faith”, “religiosity”, is just an ugly tactic, specially used by the materialist Western understanding against Dharmic traditions, and those deracinated folks who happily borrow the terminology to mock it, and derive a perverse pleasure out of it. Meanwhile, Gau Mata quietly moos in the dusty Gaushala, getting ready to get you that next packet of Amul milk delivered at the doorstep in the morning.

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