The Beef Nazis
The following hypothetical question may seem absurd and extreme, but it is precisely the question that needs to be posed to the Hindu mob which, in a ruthless lynching incident, killed 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi, a Muslim, for allegedly eating beef: Would you do business with the killers of your mother? For that matter, why would you have anything to do with the killers of your mother?
This lynching of Saifi on September 28 in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, stirred up a storm in India, which is yet lingering. The so called “religious” lynch mob, as well as their many supporters throughout the nation, who are flexing their Hindutva muscles, claim they revere the cow as their mother, hence they will not tolerate anyone eating it. In other words, their stance is, if you are going to eat beef, we will kill you!
Which brings us back to our hypothetical question, because, you see, many of the same anti-beef fanatics are also champions of Prime Minister Modi, and rally behind him as he tirelessly courts America, China, Japan, and the rest of the world—most of them beefeaters—to come do business with India.
That’s why, while the murderous rampage that claimed Saifi’s life is ugly enough, it is the hypocrisy of those self-appointed dharma rakshaks (protectors of the religion) that make it even more senseless. Not only will they happily welcome the boost to the economy coming from the country doing business with various beefeaters around the world, but their counterparts—anti-beef fanatics living in America and other countries who also revere the cow as the mother—will gladly chum up with their beef-eating neighbors, knowing they can’t afford to isolate themselves as a minority community in their host countries. Forget lynching them for eating their “mother”!
The Dadri lynching, then, is a crime of pure opportunism, and has very little to do with dharma. Before I am accused of being a “sickularist” who is blind to the sentiments of fellow Hindus who uphold the cow as mother, I say that I grew up in a family and community where gau mata (mother cow) was considered sacred. Not only have I never eaten beef but I find the very thought of it repulsive. And yet, I have no problems respecting, liking, and loving those who eat beef!
There, in a nutshell, lies the problem with fanatics, whether they are Muslim terrorists or a Hindu lynch mob. It is the inability to respect a basic tenet of coexistence in a civilization: the rest of mankind need not live by your personal beliefs and ideologies, no matter how sacrosanct they are to you. You may hold something above your life; but that does not mean the rest of the world has to.
Sure, there is nothing stopping you from promoting your values and beliefs. Write or share articles about why you feel it is such a sin to eat cow, educate others about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, about the high ecological footprint of eating meat, and on and on. You have every right to promote your beliefs, but none whatsoever to forcibly impose them upon the rest, let alone kill others who don’t live by your code.
There are many other debates surrounding this issue. “What others eat is none of your business” is an argument that comes up often. But it does not hold water as an absolute statement when you consider that eating cats and dogs, to name just two species, is either taboo or is illegal in most societies. And when you go the extreme and introduce cannibalism to the debate, it instantly makes hollow this argument about what you eat not being anyone’s business.
Of course, societies have some business deciding the limits of what they will consider as legally allowable to eat. But those decisions must come through law and order, which in turn must come through healthy discussions and debates. Certainly lynch mobs should not be calling those shots.
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