The decibel level and temperature of prime time TV was so high I thought my idiot box would explode. This cacophony was the result of one political leader in India declaring, “Hindus eat beef.”
To verify this as a fact, I guess we have to first establish who a Hindu is. It is interesting to note that the word Hindu is not found in any ancient texts or in Sanskrit language. While growing up I heard the theory that people who lived by the river Sindhu were termed Hindus by Greek and Persian invaders. With that logic since the Sindhu River flows through Pakistan, the people living there must qualify as Hindus practicing Islam and eating beef!
Still later I learnt that Hindu is a derogatory word in Persian and means a thief or slave. Well this could definitely apply to many of our political masters who today market themselves as the “Hindu’ mouthpiece for the majority.
Labeled Hindu at birth I was told by my grandmother that even if a Hindu child grew up to be an atheist he or she wouldn’t lose the tag of being a Hindu. You were one for life no matter what you did. I was never told I would cease being a Hindu say, if I cut my hair, started eating meat, smoked, wore pants, changed my gender or married someone from another religion. If I so chose I had a plethora of gods to worship, many sacred books to study, many external marks to sport and best of all I had the choice to junk it all. I grew up secure in this knowledge of permanence.
At home we were taught that everything has life and to revere animals, trees, plants, insects and even inanimate stones as having consciousness. Eating meat was never condemned; it was something we didn’t do at our home. I was not forbidden to befriend or play with others who ate meat or beef or belonged to other communities or caste. Eating habits were a matter of choice I was led to believe. In fact I am part of a family in which vegetarians and pure non vegetarians and some beefatarians (settled abroad, thank God!) all live together in harmony. I am sure there are many millions of such families in our country. So then who are these people who have suddenly become the spokespersons for us and are we going to sit by idly while they desecrate our peaceful nature and spread misinformation?
In today’s time how relevant is it for a democracy like India to make an issue of consuming beef, a subject that really seems a non-issue in the face of all other concerns that plague us as a nation. Let those who want to shelter cows do so, but tying religious sentiments to political will, will take us from a democratic to a theocratic State. The desire of some for a Hindu nation may well be the end of the diaspora that was unique to our people and a country known for its unity in diversity from times immemorial.
It’s time for a rethink. It’s ironical but by not speaking up against the radicals in our own religion we fan the fires of radicalism in others religion. This is true of all religions be it Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jew or Christian. It’s time to turn the lens on ourselves and question the diktats of our religious and other leaders. One must understand that everything is a chain of reactions and we are being played one against the other.
Perhaps its time to break out of organised religion and maybe our generation needs to show the way. All of us have much to reflect upon, discrimination based on caste, attitude against LGBT rights, khap panchayats, atrocities based on gender, imposition of dress code on girls, coercing subtly one partner to change her/his religion, conversions through charity, the tradition of having multiple wives and the practice of easy divorce by men by just saying so, female foeticide. It’s time to reflect about how important it is to label ourselves, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain or Christian and not just be Human.
The young who should be in the forefront of the resistance seem to be mindlessly doing so only when politically motivated, either by the far left or far right or middle, by the green, saffron blue or white. There is no freethinking across the board. Most shrug and don’t want to get involved in any controversies, wanting to be just left alone to get on with their education, job, looking for an out from this country. So that leaves it to us of the older order to take up cudgels and yes maybe get killed for it.
I for one, though a vegetarian, born in a Hindu Brahmin family is happy to make a stew of beef and partake of it if it ends violence in the name of religion. Everyone is invited to this buffet and can bring the forbidden in his or her religion. Nobody will be forced; it’s not a conversion but a statement of peace and change by those who want to live in a world where an individual is more important than a mass of faceless people and the symbols of their religion.