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The Dilemma of Cow Slaughter in India

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By Anshul Kumar Pandey:

“Hindus commit no sin, if they cannot prevent cow slaughter at the hands of Muslims, and they do sin grievously when in order to save the cow, they quarrel with the Muslims.” -Mahatma Gandhi

The Madhya Pradesh government’s recently passed ‘Gau Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Act 2012’ is a ridiculous piece of legislation and should be thoroughly criticized and debunked for its innate communal overtones. As a piece of legislation, it has set up new standards of intellectual and legislative bankruptcy of the political class of Madhya Pradesh and has exposed its obsession with injecting communal poison into the society.

It is not for the first time that such an act has been passed in any state in India. Such poorly conceived but equally ridiculous rules and regulations prohibiting cow slaughter exist in other states too, such as Maharashtra, Orissa, Jharkhand etc. However, it is in the BJP ruled states that an attempt, to give communal policies a legislative facade, is being made. This exposes the larger conspiracy to turn these states into hotspots of communalism inside and under a secular country. Meanwhile, the so called secular parties of the country have chosen to act like mute spectators to this entire drama and have turned a blind eye to this whole issue.

Commenting upon the preposterousness of such an act, Javed Anand, co-editor of the online magazine ‘Communalism Combat’, opined:

“Under its new law, a humble head constable upwards, “any person authorized by a competent authority” has the power to enter, inspect and search any premises “where he has a reason to believe that an offence has been, is being or is likely to be committed and take necessary action.” “

“In a state where as often as not the police functions as the private militia of the Saffron Brotherhood, who is to determine, and on what basis, whether a chunk of meat stored in the fridge or simmering on the burner comes from a Buffalo (not prohibited) or from a cow or its progeny?” (1)

It is clear from the ambiguous and vague wording of this new act that this piece of legislation is not specifically designed and enacted to curb cow slaughter, but is a tool to harass the minority community, particularly the Muslims, and establish Hindu supremacy in the state. It is ironic that for the devotees of a religion that has long held the tradition of ‘bali’ (sacrifice of any animal, even a cow) at the altar of a deity to please it, cow slaughter by members of a different religious community should whip up such public outcry. This not only shows the double standards of those advocating a ban against cow slaughter, but also shows the sheer illogical will in a failure to recognize that beef forms an important part in the food chain of the nature and that constitutionally too, slaughter of a cow cannot be prohibited even under section 256 of the IPC.


For such a ridiculous piece of legislation could have entered the hallowed halls of a state legislature and come out unscathed in the form of a law, points to a strong historical precedent on the whole issue. Indeed, historically, the cow has been upheld as a holy animal and has been worshipped by eminent national leaders from Swami Dayanand Saraswati to Mahatma Gandhi. Apparently, the firebrand Maharatta nationalist and orator, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, got so perturbed by the issue that he bellowed in exasperation to a bewildered crowd “Kill me but spare the cow!”

In his magnum opus on ancient India, “The Wonder That Was India”, the celebrated Indologist, Mr. A.L.Basham, while commenting upon the Political life and thought of the state writes:

“In later times, the lives of many animals were protected by law, especially, that of the cow. The story of the Chola king who ordered the execution of his own son for the accidental killing of the calf is certainly a legend, and we need not believe that Kumarapala (c. 1143-1172), the Jaina king of the Caulukya dynasty of Gujarat, so strictly enforced non violence that heavy fines were inflicted on people who killed fleas, but these stories show the climate of opinion in medieval India. In the later period, the wanton killing of a cow was among the most serious of crimes.” (2)

However, raising some ambiguity over the contention that it was strictly forbidden to slaughter cows in ancient India, Mr. Basham writes:

“The inviobility of the cow was of slow growth. Though, there seems to have been some feeling against the killing of cows even in Vedic times. Ashoka did not forbid the slaughter of cattle, and oxen, at any rate, was killed for food even later. But the ARTHASHASTRA refers to the existence of herds of aged, diseased and sterile cattle and it therefore appears that even before the Christian era they were normally allowed to die a natural death at least in some parts of the country. The same work suggests that those who kill cattle should be put to death but from the context it is clear that this prescription applies only to killers of beasts stolen from the royal herds.” (3)

In modern India, cow slaughter as a political issue first propped up in the early 1880s in the Punjab, where the members of the Kuki tribe tried to extract political dividends by flaring up communal tension in the area. However, violence soon broke out and the British authorities intervened to restore law and order and peace was again established. But cow slaughter as a strong political issue had marked its debut.

Swami Dayanand Saraswati, who, through his Arya Samaj, sought to eradicate the ills of Hinduism by abolishing child marriage, idol worship, polytheism etc., threw his weight behind the cow protection movement by establishing various cow protection committees in various parts of the country which whipped up communal tension between the rival communities and finally culminated in the communal riots of 1893 which started from Mau in Azamgarh, but soon spread over various parts of the country.

Delving further into the politics of Cow Protectionism, Sekhar bandopadhyay, professor at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, in his book “From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India” writes:

“Extremist politics and Hindu revivalism — the impact of cow killing riots in North India, for example — by reinforcing the social fault lines further facilitated Muslim mobilization. The Hindu bhadralok in Bengal often looked down upon the Muslims with contempt. The Hindu ‘jatras’ or rural theatrical performances often indulged in vilification of Muslim historical persona, which was not very lightly taken by the anjumans or the mullahs. The cumulative effect of all these factors was the accumulation of social tension which ultimately culminated in Communal Violence.” (4)

For a Muslim, beef presented a cheap source of nutrition and diet, cheaper than say, goat meat. However, with the growing objections of the Hindu majority, beef not only became a symbolic gesture of asserting independence, but it also took the form of an icon of Muslim cultural identity. It was a tool of rebellion against the oppression perpetrated by the Hindu majority and in it the Muslim community began to see their method of asserting their rights and religious practices.

Throughout the playing out of this communal propaganda, the reaction of the so called secular parties, most importantly The Congress provided an insight into the religious sentimentality associated with the issue of cow slaughter. According to Mr. Bandopadhyay:

“…in its 1888 session, Congress passed a rule that no resolution would be accepted if an overwhelming majority of Hindu or Muslim delegates objected to it….But these symbolic gestures did not remove the apprehension of the Muslims, while the crucial silence of the Congress during the cow killing riots of 1893 added further to such misgivings. Congress was not directly involved in the Cow protection movement, nor did it sympathize with this cause; but by speaking against it, they felt, they might loose the support of the Hindu constituency. Its silence was misinterpreted — for legitimate reasons — as concurrence; and as John McLane has shown, Muslim participation in Congress sessions began to decline rather dramatically after 1893. Yet there was no major congress endeavor to bring the Muslims back into its fold.” (5)

These words would have still rung true had Mr. Bandopadhyay would have been writing about the present policies of secular parties like the Congress in the context of cow slaughter even today. One may even go as far as to add, that the secular parties of the country bear as much responsibility for the communalization of Indian polity as much as the communal forces, because of their inability to properly demonstrate to the Indian public, the dangers of Communalization, right from their very origin.


One can then conclusively argue that the recently passed Madhya Pradesh bill banning cow slaughter is not an isolated act of communal bias, but is a small part in the larger scheme of things to divide the polity of this country on the basis of religion.

The propensity of the hyper religious audience is such that the reason and rationality of a particular argument finds itself in a cul-de-sac surrounded by angry chants of tradition and culture. No debate should take place. Dissent should be quelled. Every logic should be scuttled in the name of faith and belief. Anyone who tries to differ and argue is branded as a heretic and his/her actions are labeled as sacrilegious. An attempt, then, is made to steer the whole discourse into a majority vs. minority issue and to exclude the many in the name of the most. Such reasoning is already expected as this logically crippled and adrenaline pumped audience proceeds to prepare a lethal cocktail of the nationalistic, the religious and the majoritarian. Even nationalism comes to be defined to mean majoritarianism and the domain of ‘we’ is then split into ‘us’ and ‘they’. Religion is then used more as an instrument of hatred and propaganda, rather than a positive force of tolerance and compassion. Faith vanishes and the only purpose of religion remains to act like a torchbearer of majoritarian identity in order to gain a share in the spoils collected through vitiating the political spectrum. This is the religious right’s ideal nation. This is their dream come true.

But while this may be a dream for a considerably large proportion of the country, it can only be humbly described as a terrible nightmare which would serve as a precursor to doom for secular bhadralok scattered throughout the country. The need of the moment is to rise up to the occasion and make the people of the country aware about such perfidious legislation being passed by the ultra religious forces and to combat the scourge of communalism. The time is over when we could have chucked such laws out of the window labeling them as acts of insanity. Aggressive secularism is the way forward.

(1) Javed Anand, “Using the Cow”, Indian Express, January 5, 2012
(2) A.L.Basham, The State: Political Life and Thought in “The Wonder that was India”, Picador India, pp. 120
(3) A.L.Basham, Op.Cit. pp.196
(4) Sekhar Bandopadhyay, Early Nationalism in “From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India”, Orient Blackswan, pp.269
(5) Sekhar Bandopadhyay, Op.Cit. pp.234

You must be to comment.
  1. Yogesh Kumar Mittal

    Slaughtering cow is against the human race. Cow is the root of organic farming. We drink mother’s milk for a year or two but cow milk throughout the life. If we can kill cow we can also kill our parents.

    1. Sandeepan

      Kisne sikhaya bhai yeh sab tumhe? heard of sustainable farming ever? by your logic the world will be devoid of hens

  2. Krish

    Apparently its a decision on religious basis but we should appreciate as cow is backbone of Indian economy and main source of milk, fuel, gas to poor indian villagers. People like you are spreading hate & communal Tension. One cow if slaughter can provide food to 8 people once only but can feed for years by her milk . Moreover if Hindus are tolerating Muslim rituals then Muslim too respect hindus sentiment.
    In Quran also slaughter of milk giving animal is prohibited.

  3. Kirtan

    Hahaha…Biased guy…Are you a writer? Do they call you one? If the country can be divided by banning the cow slaughter, then it can be further divided by eating beef. Ridiculous rule? Dude , I am ready to sponsor tickets for the people who have your sort of thinking..and you know the tickets for what country. you take care.

  4. common man

    This guy is insane. I am a NON vegetarian. I respect Muslim culture but they shoud also respect ours.They should understand that they are living in Hindustan and eating beef (i.e., slaugtering of cows) would definately hurts Hindus sentiments. If we (Hindu-Muslims) respect each other culture and sentiments then it wud be called true Secualrism and not secularism because of minority reservations or rules…

  5. Mahip Chauhan

    cow slaughtering is cruelty of islam. it is an arabi r
    culture to slaught cows.shame on them who are following this culture. are they Indian? cow is second mother of every indian according to indian culture. where we are going and why are keeping silent on this big Issue. Jai Mata Di. . .

    1. LightsOnTruth

      Hi Mahip, I would request you to please refer to the Hindu religious scriptures. You’ll come to know that cow slaughtering is permitted in Vedas and in Mahabhartha as well, let me know I’ll provide you the references. Please refer to the quotation from Swami Vivekananda and I request you to verify this quotation on www or from any independent sources of your choice.
      “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to the old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it”
      [The complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 3, Pg 536]

    2. Amar

      So what if Swami Vivekananda is of this opinion, we can think for ourselves. And I have the Srimad Bhagavad Geeta at home which prescribes cow protection. But the issue is majority vs minority here that the secularists want to exploit. Why not an inclusive Indian culture that combines best practices like cow protection and compassion. Jai Mata ki!

    3. kalyan

      are you an Idiot ?

  6. anuj k b

    Slaughtering a COW is not mentioned in either HINDU or ISLAM. Even Muslims earlier didnt use to eat cow. The Slaughter market of India is ensured running by britishers, americans and russians. You may not find it right. There has been 4 attempts to ban cow slaughtering that has majority in the parliament. Yet it was stopped for some or the other reason. The cow meat is exported and indian cow meat is tasty and used for christianity dominated countries like Russia which exert pressure on Indian Govt and Prime ministers. Know history why nehru Indira Vajpayee and Mamta Banerjee were against passing bill of anti-cow slaughter. Mamta banerjee herself said that ‘it is my right to eat a cow what will happen to that’. If you want to eat cow, cut it in your homes and let your family and neighbours see that you eat a cow. Why to run slaughter houses for that???

  7. p k

    “Quote” – Slaughter of a cow cannot be prohibited even under “section 256 of the IPC”

    I feel this as an ignorance on your part, while you are plagiarizing your article by copying several sections from various resources on the internet, you should atleast check their authenticity. The quoted section 256 of IPC has no relevance what so ever with cows or their slaughtering.
    Section 256 Indian Penal Code.Having possession of instrument or material for counterfeiting Government stamp. Whoever has in his possession any instrument or material for the purpose of being
    used, or knowing or having reason to believe that it is intended to be used, for the purpose of counterfeiting any stamp issued by Government for the purpose of revenue, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

  8. mahesh k rathi

    In the Hindu scriptures, in hundreds of places, cow or gow mata has been called “aghanya” i.,e cannot be killed under any cirumstances . The Hindu religions backbone is the Gow and Ganga and both are in deep trouble !

    To listen to someone quoting Swami Vivekandan or the Vedas, translated by the English to further their agenda during pre partition period , would be a fallacy. please someone give me the exact original sanskrit quotes from any religious text where gow killing is considered .!

  9. smtha

    Cow is revered in India since ancient times. Secularism doesn’t mean that we forget the culture and history of the region. Respecting the culture and sanctity of land is duty of every citizen irrespective of the religion. India has history of Cow worship and all the Indians should stand by it. Just taking birth in India doesn’t make a person Indian if that person doesn’t stand by or appreciate the culture which is “local” to the land.

  10. indian

    I think this reporter need to read these lines word by word………….

    Some people are under serious misapprehension in regard to the secular character of our State. They think that there is some kind of incompatibility between cow protection and a secular State. There is no incompatibility between the secular character of our State and the protection of the cow. No religion in India says that it is meritorious to kill a cow, and therefore there is no conflict among our different religions about the desirability of the protection of the cow. Therefore I say that there is nothing to prevent the secular State from striving to protect the cow, and our State must do it. S.V.-1161 “ – Vinoba Bhave.

    Now should not feel ridiculous to know the truth……….

  11. hindutvavadi

    YOU ARE A PSEUDOSECULAR GANDHIAN PRODUCT!!! yes u r following the greatest anti hindu think we must allow a bloody muslim to kill a cow in our sacred land?? if they want 2 kill, let them go to pakistan gifted by gandhi.aren’t u ashamed 2 talk like this belonging to the great aryan race,drinking the milk of the great gomata???


  12. Sangram Powar

    Recently, there was a great debate over the movie Vishwaroop, over can any movie (or for that matter any form of art) allowed to hurt the public sentiments (or sentiments of a particular caste/religion/community). If one sees through a very objective perspective, the answer is clear. We don’t have the right to hurt the feelings of any community by such artistic creations, since public expression do have a social constrain (we don’t discuss the habits of our neighbor in the newspaper article, do we? Atleast well-educated of us don’t).
    If you read above, people have debated law, and morals and ethics and what not. but don’t you guys see, it is a matter of killing something considered sacred by a community, and until the entire community feels that it is alright to slaughter the cow, for consumption, it is advisable not to make it public law that assures the right to slaughter the cow.
    Why you may ask?
    Because, this is what a civilization represents. Or do we rather not consider ourselves civilized..
    PS:- In the spirit of civility, I do invite criticism 😛

  13. JaiHind

    Muslim Religion doesn’t tell to eat Cow Meat
    For all Muslims :
    Please read the Qurans its no where mentioned to kill cow for food. It’s all wrong belief put in your minds by Politicians. To make it vote-bank.
    Hyder ali who was pakka muslman. The muslim Ruler had ban on cow slaughter and punishment was DEATH.. yes by cutting throat not imprisonment.
    In Tipu sultan rule, cow slaughter was punshed by cutting both hands. Akbar and others had same act of punishing by hanging.

    Do your own research and study. Don’t listen to politicians.
    Become Real Bhartiya

  14. Harsh Vasani

    Country cannot be divided by just a ban on cow slaughter. The author is seeing too much into this law which is primarily to protect the religious belief of the Hindu. I don’t think there is any intention for a communal divide by this legislature.

  15. Anoop

    I take strong objection to the way writer has tried to perpetuate one side of the issue.
    Cow is worshiped and believed to be sacred by majority of hindus. If in the name of religion
    and upliftment of minorities can be taken by the government why not respect the sensibilities of
    a larger section of society. The pro – Congress ideology of the writer is more than evident. Please stop manipulating
    people with this pseudo secular crap.

  16. Sanchita

    For all those who believe that beef-eating is against the ‘Hindu’ culture, it is my humble request to all of them to take a look at ‘The Myth of the Holy Cow’ written by Prof. D.N. Jha and then attempt making such sweeping statements. I don’t understand the mayhem regarding killing a cow. How on earth is that different from killing any other animal for consumption? How do you justify being a ‘non-vegetarian’ but abstaining from eating beef because apparently it is against our culture?!! And just for your information, this is the 21st Century and Hindus too eat beef. It is no longer a taboo.

    1. indian

      @sanchita, please put ur real name. Also why do hindus object to slaughtering of cow?

      It’s the same cows milk you feed urself n ur children and use the dairy products. As India in primarily depends on agriculture, cow n bulls are still used in farming.

      People back in west n Middle East don’t do much of agriculture and use cows as food, where as in India you have other plenty of sources for proteins.

      Bottom line is will you slaughter your mother n relish her meat??

    2. Corbusier

      My mum’s a human being. I have these amazing cognitive abilities that allow me to differentiate between animals and human beings. I see some others don’t.

  17. Akkal K Kanda

    Completely biased and rubbish article.

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