Uttar Pradesh government has mooted a proposal to ban meat in Ayodhya and Mathura. Considered to be the birthplace of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna respectively, Yogi Adityanath government plans to declare these two cities as pilgrimage sites so that sale of meats and liquor are prohibited.
The history of northern India is peculiar; majority religion being Hinduism as anywhere in the history of subcontinent but ruled by Muslim rulers for nearly eight centuries. Muslim ‘invaders’ have subjected, humiliated and oppressed the dominant religion and sought to wipe off the legacy of glorious Hindu past, is a rhetorical narrative that unfortunately, found favour amongst the people, owing to peculiar past. There could have been a better ground than this for the conservative communal groups to further its agenda. Milking from the current scenario, as much as possible, the government, in a series of the name-changing spree, off-late, has begun to consolidate the misled victimised feelings of people. In a well calculated masterstroke, grabbing upon the Ram temple issue, – on which the Supreme Court last month deferred the date and the bench to be constituted to hear the issue, to January and further of 2019 – the BJP and RSS affiliates by their aggressive push to lay foundation for the construction of the temple, have projected themselves as champions of Hindu sentiments against Muslim ‘despondency’. Despite knowing well that this would be akin to playing with fire that may turn into an inferno burning down entire nation, they want to take this risk to bolster their political fortunes.
The meat ban is condemnable for several reasons. In a democratic setup, the government should not dictate the people on dietary practices. Food habits are part of the community’s culture that people have been following for ages. Also, given that India is a heterogeneous society with diverse religions, caste, sub-caste and tribes, it would be a disaster to straighten it up by imposing homogeneous practices. Any imposition on the people on a matter such as food, clothing, would not only kill diversity but also eventually bring in autocracy. From the point of secular ethos which India professes to follow, and if to go by the real spirit of the term that state shall not follow, recognise or favour any religion, then proposed ban is a flagrant violation of such a principle.
Before debating whether the state should toe the majority sentiments lest it gets hurt, let us determine who is the majority in this case. The meat-eating is certainly not limited to the non-Hindus. A majority of Hindus are non-vegetarians. Certainly then, vegetarians are in the minority. Debating upon the larger question, can the sentiment of the people, majority or minority, be the basis in framing the policy of the government? If yes, then we will be taking a ridiculous position of accepting blood-curdling inhumane practices of all religions that were in vogue in history for long. Religious sentiments are the basis for formulating laws in a theocratic state but not in a democracy. Going by the majority sentiment the heliocentric concept had to be straight away rejected advocating which claimed the precious life of Giordano Bruno who was burnt at stake and Galileo, detained under house arrest for nearly two decades. The reason, logic, human emotions, aspirations, rights of man, and the liberty that are supposed to be the basis of constitutional democracy should be the guiding principle behind any ban or otherwise rather than the ill-conceived majority or minority sentiments.
Even the rule of the kings in the feudal era that was marked by religious law codes, barring few exceptions, never embargoed on food habits. Even on occasion when the king perceived some food intake to be obnoxious and against his religious belief, the ban wasn’t imposed. In fact, as opposed to secular-democratic concepts which hadn’t emerged then, those were ruled strictly according to the scriptures but did not favour to dictate terms about eating habits. Unfortunately, the elected leaders today, who swear by the constitution and not by the scriptures do not hesitate a moment to indulge in the brazenly unconstitutional act.
The very concept that equates meat with the impurity is an outcome of upper caste Hindu psyche. It makes being vegetarian as a precondition of being a ‘bhakt’ of Lord Rama or Lord Krishna. According to the Rig Veda, Aryans, the the predecessors of today’s upper caste Hindus, did eat meat. In the aftermath of Adi Shankaracharya and revival of Arya Dharma, the meat-eating was looked down as a lowly habit. The majority, the backward castes, scheduled castes and tribes, did continue to eat meat and were scorned upon by the upper castes. Needless to say, the proposed ban appears to be the imposition of upper caste Hindu psyche on the general public.
With Indian society already torn by communal attacks with ever increasing new vigilantes in the name of gaurakshaks, the ban would provide a new ammunition in their hands to further their business of lynching and brutality.