In the following article, Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, seeks to address basic issues of Indian Constitution, which need to be addressed while interpreting the ghastly lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in village Bisara, Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, on the night of September 28, on suspicion of storing and consuming beef:
It is now clear that a homeguard constable Vinay forced the local priest to make a false announcement about Mohammad Akhlaq, 50, and his family storing and consuming beef, which led to a fatal mob attack on Akhlaq in Bisara village, Dadri, UP, on September 29. Two cousins, Vishal Rana and Shivam Rana, claimed to have seen the remains of the slaughtered cow, and accompanied Vinay to the temple. Vishal’s father, Sanjay Rana is a local BJP leader.
Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma has claimed that the mob attack on Akhlaq’s son Danish was not intended to lynch him, since he only suffered “a head injury that was caused when he was hit by a lathi.” The police have already declared that Danish’s injuries were serious, as most head injuries are. The Minister even went to the extent of defending the lynch mob by pointing out that the 17-year-old girl inside Akhlaq’s home was not touched. It would have been a crime if she was, but that did not bother the Minister of Culture. Contrary to the Minister’s claim that the girl was not touched, women’s activist Kavita Krishnan stated that she had been molested.
Given Sharma’s reputation, this exposure is not surprising. He also justified severe reactions to cow slaughter: “You can kill other animals… (but) when you name cow… We have linked the cow with our mother.” But under Directive Principle 48 of the Constitution, which is not binding but indicative, not only cows but also buffalos, mithun and yaks should not be slaughtered. This Article has no reference to any religion, and bases itself on the need to improve the breeds of milch and draft cattle. So the privileging of the cow is purely the ideology of a section of one community. Sharma is not upholding his oath to the Constitution.
He denied that the lynching was a conspiracy. “There was no premeditated conspiracy.” Further, “A conspiracy cannot be hatched in two hours. A conspiracy requires a month, a fortnight.” On the other hand, according to the Minister, a gang “of just 3-4 persons can … within five-seven minutes, skin an entire adult cow.”
So, the bias of Sharma is clear. He even speculates a communal intent. He states, “Perhaps there was a trail of blood coming out of that home.” (The Sunday Express, October 4, 2015) The police have not noted any such finding. So why does Sharma make this communal comment? And if there was blood, it could well have been Akhlaq’s who was severely beaten inside his home, without any proof of cow slaughter.
But when a Union Minister makes such disingenuous statements as well as communal ones, contrary to the Constitutional directive on this issue, it shows how deep the rot has set in.
What’s the Beef?
The ban on beef eating has been allegedly based on the Constitution. In post-Independence India, the beef ban was already preempted by the Dogra King of Kashmir in the 1930s. But the Constitution nowhere bans beef eating. Article 48 of the Directive Principles is titled, “Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry,” with no reference to any bovine in the title. It states, “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern lines and, shall in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”
The Directive Principles are non-justiciable, non-binding unlike the Fundamental Rights. But Article 48 says nothing against beef eating. What about the slaughter of milch and draught cattle? These include, apart from cows, calves and bulls, also buffalos, mithun and yaks. None of these should be slaughtered, since the main intention is to preserve and improve the breeds of milch and draught cattle. But tens of thousands of cattle are slaughtered and the beef exported to various countries by Indian businessmen every year. But this is clearly against Article 48.
It exposes the duplicity of the RSS/BJP. And what are the steps the State and state governments have taken to improve the breeds of milch and draft cattle? Throughout this country, emaciated untended cattle eat garbage or whatever little food they can find, in every city, town and village. Even the goshallas do not use scientific methods to improve breeds.
So the basis for the beef ban is not Constitutional. But because of the fear of majoritarian Hinduism, many secular state governments have fallen like nine pins to ban beef eating, whether it be the Congress, SP, BSP, JD(S), JD(U), NCP, etc. The Congress-led front in Kerala has not banned beef. Nor has the BJP in Goa. In the North East, many people eat beef, as is well known.
The beef ban is an opportunist and sectarian attempt to spread Hindu communalism through a misinterpretation of Constitution and law. Rationalists did oppose it. Babasaheb Ambedkar urged Dalits not to eat dead cattle but fresh beef. VD “Veer” Savarkar strongly supported the sale of beef as a cheap source of protein for the poor. Leading politicians today are pygmies compared to those who led the freedom struggle (the RSS was not active in that struggle). Thus communalism, casteism, misogyny and corruption have spread.