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Beef No Longer On The Menu: Who Is The State Really Serving?

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By Mehernaz Patel:

There was much trepidation on a late weeknight when I realized that the guilty pleasure of watching my cooking show had been compromised. Not because of the show, mind you.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

No, the compromise arose out of the fact that I was unable to hear the name of a certain ingredient as it was being spoken by the participants – something by the name of b**f or even worse – c*w. This mystery meat was tainted with censure. This is something many are familiar with – in our country – albeit, not necessarily from a culinary point of view. The sacred cow, arguably held sacred by our ancestors for what it provided them with in terms of commodities, has always held a controversial space in India considering that its image swings from the devotional to the delicious – hence the censure of the very word – lest our sensibilities get offended.

But, if one were to evoke Nihalani’s  censor board, then there would be a long list of words that my favourite show would eventually be missing. Pork for example, or shellfish. Or perhaps, garlic, and potatoes. In a nation so diverse in its beliefs, practices, and even swear words, if every singular “offense” were to be considered, there would, indeed, be a short list of uncensored terms.

But, coming back to the beef, the inkling that began with the word being subtly silenced, was realized in its being banned in Maharashtra. In the passing of a Bill that originated in 1995, the people of the state have found themselves being confronted with a ten thousand rupee fine for the possession or sale of beef. In what Fadnavis has termed as the realization of “our dream on the ban of cow slaughter,” many eyebrows have been raised at what might be considered a blatant ignorance of the food culture of some of the communities in the state. Not to mention that beef is by far the cheapest meat available for those who find themselves unable to afford the most unholy chicken, fish, or mutton. Also, there is the small matter that cows, technically, haven’t featured in our burgers and steaks since 1995.

This argument is perhaps simplistic. The officially cited reason is – the environmental repercussions. The Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act has been amended to include a blanket ban on the slaughter of bulls, bullocks, female buffaloes, and buffalo calves, which essentially implies a big no-no with regards to their consumption as well. The fact that very few people in the public forums are acknowledging the environmental face of the argument, and heading straight to attack the religious favouritism argument is a problem in itself.

There is no way that such amendments would take place outside of religious and cultural influence, that much is obviously certain, yet the fact that few – aside from the state of course – are willing to even consider another aspect to the decision is as dangerous as if the allegation were completely true. In an immediate tendency to accuse the state of siding with the majority, there is an immediate lowering of belief in those that the nation itself elected. This dissent and yet, the fact that even the opposing discourse revolves around the same narrow criterion it accuses the centre of, is troubling.

Yet, despite these musings, there is always the seemingly unimportant fact that the very word is bleeped out of public memory. Coupled with the attacks carried out against those involved in the beef trade, evidence seems to be stacking up against the purely environmental view provided by the state. Because, as much benefit of  doubt may be accorded, there is no possible way in which a mere mention of the word is causing a deficit in milk! What it may cause, however, is offence to some, who constitute the majority. The majority that voted for the ruling government, and apparently the majority the government is legislating for – a suspicion further strengthened by the economic benefit that beef provides India.

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  1. Arjun

    http://indiankanoon.org/doc/1452355/
    Article 48 in The Constitution Of India 1949
    Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific 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.

  2. anku

    I am writing this hoping for the likes of the Chief Minister to come to their senses and stop such craziness.
    I do not give a damn about laws protecting the slaughter of animals (cows, buffaloes etc) or about beef costing less compared to other non vegetarian food, since it is not the price or law which stops people from having it. In others countries too beef is relished and eaten, irrespective of the price.
    My concern lies with the treatment meted out to our GOMATHA’S nowadays. Has anyone any idea of what goes on in a dairy farm? Do you know what shit is meted out to the cows before their milk is delivered to us?
    The cows are made to stand or sit in small confinements and now allowed to wander around or rather stretch their legs. What would u say if this treatment was prescribed to you. IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU HIP AND KNEE JOINTS.
    They are given huge amount of antibiotics and steroids. It is a wonder that they have not gone mad yet. Will you allow your child to go through this torture.
    The most pathetic fact is that the cows are not allowed to mate with the bull. A doctor comes and fertilizes the cow with an injection and the cow gets pregnant and delivers. Well it is a COW, we need not consider its urges and emotions, should we. Well since we do not yet have to go through with such scientific advances in life for now we are spared.
    And now comes the worst. Milking the cows. Well I do not have the heart to talk about it. We are not milking our cows we are bleeding them with the use of modern methodology.
    The milk we drink and the meat we eat are from such tortured and degraded cows it is wonder we have not yet turned into full fledged monsters.
    After learning of the torture the animals go through in order to serve our needs one wonders if the Gomatha still possesses the divinity as told by our ancestors. When this is the case how can the person consuming any of its produce at least live with good health. I really do not understand.
    Mr CM with the love in your heart for these cows why can u not pass laws to allow the cows to live with dignity and care and then we can think of what will happen to it when it becomes a carcass.
    Can’t u pass a law that allows grazing lands for cows. Natural medicines should be used and steroids should be avoided. I think treating the cows with compassion should be more close to your heart then worrying about who eats it.
    It is a known fact that every farmer sells his cow for slaughter when it stops lactating. Well you can pass a law that the government will buy such cows and start GHOSALAS.
    Friends one need not be of any particular religion to appreciate these facts. Come join together beyond your religion and stop this mayhem.

    1. akash sulochana

      Surely….this all points raised for polarisation of people among Hindu &Muslim…we must oppose them…..like ur article

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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