Published On : Wed, May 27th, 2015

Why Fadnavis banned beef? Political not a religious decision

beef-banNagpur: My ‘source’ who is very knowledgeable about these things disclosed this ‘fact’ to me : our dear Nagpurian, Devendra Fadnavis, despite being the CM and having a clean and dashing image, is quite isolated in his own cabinet. Munde’s daughter Pankaja, who was also in the running briefly for CM’s chair, is not ready to forgive and forget. Eknath Khadse is a silent opponent too. Many of the other senior Ministers like Mungantiwar, Bawankule are firmly in Gadkari’s camp – who despite being the CM’s senior in Nagpur isn’t quite keen on him. Fadnavis’ trump card has been that he has Modi’s backing and blessings, but this backing doesn’t translate into monetary help for Maharashtra. “Other deserving states are in the fray” he is told.

Thus despite the best intentions, nothing much is happening in Maharashtra – there are many plans but mostly on paper… in such frustrating times, CM thought let me have at least the RSS rooting for me and backing me, so he came up with the brilliant idea of total beef ban. (This ban is something that RSS has been asking for since many decades). Sunil Manohar being a very efficient attorney, convinced the Judiciary also to give its blessings to this ban.

But one unanticipated fall out of this move has been that the (Hindu – Maratha) barons of the thriving Dairy business in Western Maharashtra are very upset and annoyed. They have large dairies housing hundreds of cows; when a ‘Gorha’ ( male offspring) was born, in a few months he was sold off since no one has any use for ‘Bail’ Heifers, in agriculture anymore. There are no ‘bail jodis’ or bulls used for sowing, tilling etc. as tractors have replaced them completely. So why feed life long a creature that is completely useless to you? And let go of the good sums you were getting by selling them?

Another interesting fact is to know how the Congress, read Nehru and Indira Gandhi, dealt with this Hindutva demand for ban on Cow slaughter. They did not outright say NO, knowing it would ruffle many Hindu feathers and hurt their sensibilities. They did not want to offend beef eating minorities like Muslims and Christians either. So they pretended to be “thinking” about it by setting up a very high profile committee that discussed this issue without coming to a conclusion for many long years.

From excerpts from ‘father of the white revolution’ dairy man Verghese Kurien’s autobiography ” I too had a dream” we learn the following; in Kurien’s own words –

In 1967, as Chairman of NDDB, I was asked to be a member of a high-powered committee, set up by the Government of India, to look into cow protection. It was a collection of rather individualistic and interesting personages. Justice Sarkar, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was appointed its Chairman. Among the other members of this committee were Ashok Mitra, who was then Chairman of the Agricultural Prices Commission, the Shankaracharya of Puri, H.A.B. Parpia, Director of the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore and M.S. Golwalkar ‘Guruji’, the head of the RSS, the organization which had launched the entire cow protection movement.

Incredible as it might seem, this committee met regularly for twelve years. We interviewed scores of experts from all fields to get opinions of all shades on cow slaughter. It was a tedious and time-consuming process. My brief was to prevent any ban on cow slaughter. It was important for us in the dairy business to keep weeding out the unhealthy cows so that available resources could be utilized for healthy and productive cattle. I was prepared to go as far as to allow that no useful cow should be killed. This was the point on which the Shankaracharya and I invariably locked horns and got into heated arguments. I constantly asked him, ‘Your Holiness, are you going to take all the useless cows which are not producing anything and look after them and feed them till they die? You know that cannot work.’ He never had any answer to my query.

For twelve years the Government of India paid the committee members to travel to Delhi and attend the meetings. We continued like this and it was only when Morarji Desai became Prime Minister that I received a little slip of paper, which said, ‘The cow protection committee is hereby abolished.’ We were never even asked to submit a report.

However, one rather unusual and unexpected development during our regular committee meetings was that during that time, Golwalkar and I became close friends. People were absolutely amazed to see that we had become so close that whenever he saw me walk into the room he would rush to embrace me. He would take me aside and try to pacify me after our meetings, ‘Why do you keep losing your temper with the Shankaracharya? I agree with you about him. But don’t let the man rile you. Just ignore him.’

Golwalkar was a very small man — barely five feet — but when he got angry fire spewed out of his eyes. What impressed me most about him was that he was an intensely patriotic Indian. You could argue that he was going about preaching his brand of nationalism in a totally wrong way but nobody could question his sincerity. One day after one of our meetings when he had argued passionately for banning cow slaughter, he came to me and asked, ‘Kurien, shall I tell you why I’m making an issue of this cow slaughter business?’

I said to him, ‘Yes, please explain to me because otherwise you are a very intelligent man. Why are you doing this?’

‘I started a petition to ban cow slaughter actually to embarrass the government,’ he began explaining to me in private. ‘I decided to collect a million signatures for this to submit to the Rashtrapati. In connection with this work I travelled across the country to see how the campaign was progressing. My travels once took me to a village in UP. There I saw in one house, a woman, who having fed and sent off her husband to work and her two children to school, took this petition and went from house to house to collect signatures in that blazing summer sun. I wondered to myself why this woman should take such pains. She was not crazy to be doing this. This is when I realized that the woman was actually doing it for her cow, which was her bread and butter, and I realized how much potential the cow has.

‘Look at what our country has become. What is good is foreign: what is bad is Indian. Who is a good Indian? It’s the fellow who wears a suit and a tie and puts on a hat. Who is a bad Indian? The fellow who wears a dhoti. If this nation does not take pride in what it is and merely imitates other nations, how can it amount to anything? Then I saw that the cow has potential to unify the country – she symbolizes the culture of Bharat. So I tell you what, Kurien, you agree with me to ban cow slaughter on this committee and I promise you, five years from that date, I will have united the country. What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m not a fool, I’m not a fanatic. I’m just cold-blooded about this. I want to use the cow to bring out our Indianness, So please cooperate with me on this.’

Of course neither did I concur with him on this nor did I support his argument for banning cow slaughter on the committee. However, I was convinced that in his own way he was trying to instil a pride across our country about our being Indian. This side of his personality greatly appealed to me. That was the Golwalkar I knew.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The Congress of Nehrus is out and along with it the culture of looking for a consensus and the practice of procrastination by discussions. It is the time of ‘instant’ even if one sided decisions. So was the decision on banning beef totally made without looking at economics; at feasibility; at food habits of all people or even at do ability.

But finally, it was a political and not a religious decision in reality. The irony is that the RSS founder Golwalkar thought it would ‘unite’ the nation, actually it has split it wide open – even within the BJP, ruling party too. So we a Minority Affairs Minster Naqvi saying ” anyone who want to eat beef go to Pakistan” and another MOS Kiren Rijiju of Mizoran rebutting him with ” I am an Indian, I eat beef. Who can stop me?”

…Sunita Mudaliar