Did Ambedkar pitch for beef ban?

By NM Sampathkumar Iyangar

The war cry to save ‘mother cow’ has ominously been revived. It is one issue that triggered more anti-Muslim riots in India than any other. The latest to sound the bugle for the next bout is Varun Gandhi, recently promoted as a General Secretary under the new dispensation in BJP. In a high voltage speech on March 31 at Saharanpur, the ‘honourable’ MP representing Pilibhit called for a “more intense war” against cow slaughter. “It is a social crime. It is a legal crime. Why don’t you wake up and fight this more intense war against cow slaughter? It is not for Hindus only, but for the nation’s pride,” exhorted the celebrity son of former Environment and Animal Welfare Minister under an earlier NDA regime, Maneka Gandhi. The Saffron poster-boy told the audience, “I am also on this stage with my Gandhi surname. Had I been Varun Chowdhury or Sharma, I would not have been here!” Conning people: None of the devotees of the ‘protector of Hindus’were apparently aware that the energetic brat’s correct surname must be the Parsee variant spelt Ghandhy. He was born to a half-Parsee man and half-Sikh woman. His grandfather Feroz had his name changed to the Hindu-sounding ‘Gandhi’ upon his marriage to Indira Nehru. The reason why the Ghandhys became Gandhis deceptively is obvious. It has successfully conned people throughout the world into imagining their ancestral relationship with the bania from Gujarat, projected as the ‘father of the nation’.

Varun incited the illiterate mob, “If somebody targets my mother, what would I do? I will stand and save her, isn’t it? Likewise, you should get up, gather and save our mother cow!” Incidentally, Parsees outdo Britons in their love for roasted beef and are great connoisseurs of non-vegetarian food.

The sabre rattling on cow slaughter by the MP came after the leader of opposition BJP in Delhi Assembly, VK Malhotra, created a ruckus over beef. The Congress chief minister Sheila Dikshit demonstrated the real colours of the rulers of the ‘modern and democratic’ country. Politicians, irrespective of political leanings, happen to be worshipping sacred cows to retain their sacred status in society!

Malhotra was against importing high quality beef to serve to athletes and officials during the ensuing Commonwealth Games. He strongly objected to a statement by Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta confirming the move. Of course, he was not protesting against the mega squandering in the name of CWG. Neither was he advocating swadeshi stuff.

Sheila Dixit betrayed her own prejudice against consumers of beef by siding with her ‘communal’ rival. She washed her hands off, saying, “The MCD is supposed to give permission to the caterer and the Organizing Committee will select the caterer.” At this, Malhotra slammed, “How could the Chief Minister shy away from enforcement of the legislation passed unanimously by the Assembly?” He pointed out that legislation was passed in 1994 under which storage and sale of beef is prohibited in the national capital.

High-bred Pandits flock together: It is interesting to note that Mehta, Dixit and Malhotra all happen to be high-bred pundits, committed more to the welfare of the ‘sacred’ animal than to downtrodden human beings! They are blind to the fact that ridiculous laws, like the one on cow slaughter, must be scrapped if India wants a meaningful role in the world. With obscurantist laws preventing participants from having their choice in food and beverages, it cannot host prestigious events even if the budgets could be squeezed out of the over-taxed citizen.

Interestingly, the drama in the Delhi Assembly comes to close on the heels of reintroduction of the controversial Karnataka Cow Slaughter Prevention Bill 2010 by the Karnataka government in the assembly. The move to add sting to Animal Sacrifice Prevention Bill 1964 makes transportation and slaughter of cows (cows, calves, he and she buffalo and bull) a cognizable offence and stipulates stringent punishment to offenders.

The move had been dropped only a week earlier in the face of vehement protest from the public – particularly Christians and Muslims. Some students in Bangalore University cooked beef on the campus to register their protest against the proposed legislation. Home Minister VS Acharya of the BJP government gave no reasons for the flip flop. Congress legislators stealthily abetted the BJP government by letting it pass the resolution by voice vote.

Acharya has asserted that Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill is to be enacted “as per the wishes of Dr Ambedkar.” Noting that slaughter of cows and other bovine animals has been banned in the Constitution, the minister said, “We neither want to appease certain sections, nor antagonize others.” He insisted that the main aim of the government is to ensure that law and order prevails in the state.

Distorting history: This is not the first time that sacred pundits of India cunningly associate the name of BR Ambedkar to the ridiculous law banning beef by distorting history. In fact, conservative fanatics like Seth Govind Das in the Constituent Assembly wanted to register the ban on cow slaughter within the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution. BRA deftly defused his demand, notwithstanding the prevailing obsessive reverence for bovines. It is worth noting that the CA was packed with lawyer-politicians hailing from high-bred sections of the society, under ‘Pundit’ Jawaharlal Nehru. Ambedkar enlisted the support of Thakur Das Bhargava, a close associate of Govind Das, to draft an amendment in Nov 1948. The provision was changed to an omnibus rhetoric on bio diversity and sustainable development.

The provision applies to USEFUL cattle that provide milk and draught power and says: “The state shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall in particular take steps for preserving and improving the breed of cattle and prohibit the slaughter of cow and other useful cattle specially milk yielding and draught cattle and young stock.” In no way did BRA want the State to infringe on personal liberties of food and beverage of the citizens. The direction was not to ruin the economy of farmers and the industry for the sake of stoking the ego of the well-placed pundits.

It must be appreciated that Dr BRA was only the head of ‘drafting committee’ of the Constituent Assembly. The real boss of the CA was Gandhi’s protégé ‘Pandit’ JL Nehru. Babasaheb’s place in the CA was owing to the recognition he had earned from the British government for his excellent governance skills when it started transferring power to Indians in the 1930s. His election on Aug 29, 1947 to head the committee was a reward for speaking in favour of the Pundit when worthies like Jayakar tried to sabotage the CA itself. Jayakar first wanted to categorically rule out any future association of Muslim League in the final voting when Nehru spelt out its objectives. Dr Ambedkar brokered a compromise that removed a threat to Nehru’s position.

The Drafting committee was NOT responsible for drafting the primary texts. It only had to knock constitutional texts drafted by specialized sub committees into shape before submitting to CA. The texts were on the basis of articles proposed by committees. Dr Ambedkar was outside the Congress Party where important guidelines for each article were decided. Though he was a part of more than one of the 15 committees, he was in a miserable minority on numerous points of discussion to exert influence.

Elite conspiracy: A detailed look at the constitutional provision on cow slaughter would reveal another area in which a microscopic elite minority succeeded in its conspiracy to suppress the masses. The ban is an affront particularly to Muslims whose religious rituals call for slaughter of bulls on specific occasions. The issue has been used as a tool since decades to trigger riots aimed at decimating the community. Yet, in the interest of avoiding a confrontation in the face of provocations, the Muslim organizations failed to assert right to follow the ritual particular to them.

Many organizations even appealed to members to sacrifice other animals rather than bulls. It is worth noting that most of the leather processing units of India are operated by Muslims and the anti-cow slaughter law is a handle to harass them with charges of violating its provisions. Persistent harassment has ruined the economic prosperity of the industry. Tragically, the accommodative attitude has only been taken as a sign of weakness and to push them to a corner.

No wonder, stringent anti-cow slaughter laws exist in most States to implement bone-brained provision in the anti-people constitution. The so called founding fathers of the statute hailed from self-appointed high-caste pundits of the medieval society. It reflects their social customs and rabid fads and decrees that some 5 billion people in the world who eat beef to be cannibals!

The law authorizes the State to rob individuals of the ‘democratic nation’ of their personal liberty in choice of food/drink. Nine other states have completely banned cow slaughter. The attitude of these governments motivates hooligans to stop in National Highways even refrigerated trucks that carry meat for export. Opening the consignment in the guise of checking by the authorities whether it is beef or meat would render it unfit for export. The truckers shell out huge ransoms to ruffians to avoid the loss.

Cruelty to Cow: Moreover, the worthies are being cruel to the poor cow that they worship. It is worth noting that according to official estimates, 30,000 abattoirs operate illegally in the country against 3600 licensed ones. Actual figure would be much more and they fatten the purse of unscrupulous authorities supposed to implement the ban. Due to their existence, transportation of cows for slaughter cannot just be wished away. If transportation itself is supposed to break the law, necessitating bribes to minions of the State, no wonder the transporter cuts corners that inflict cruelty to the cargo.

Apart from the poor animals, victims of the ludicrous law are the poor farmer who is prevented from disposing off unproductive cattle and obtaining a fair price. Most of them are condemned as Sudras and made to pay to stoke the well-to-do pundits’ moral fancy. Of course, nobody would object the pundits from revering the cow or pig or whatever. But, when they enact laws to ban consumption of beef, meat, pork, fish or eggs, they will only invite rejection by people and ridicule from the world.

The title ‘father of Indian constitution’ to BR Ambedkar is a sinister conspiracy by the ruling elite of India to insure against rejection of the unfair provisions of the document by oppressed sections. Both BJP and Congress indulge in the lie to obliquely justify the title of ‘father of the nation’ to his arch rival, MK Gandhi.

Interestingly, as the first law minister of independent India under ‘Pandit’ JL Nehru, Ambedlar launched in Jan 1950 a campaign for the revision of the Hindu Code Bill. This was to be the main instrument of a far reaching reform in society where a minuscule section claiming divine sanction was keeping the masses oppressed. The revision would have removed the Sudra tag from oppressed masses, eradicated caste discrimination and untouchability; their condition would be uplifted so that they wouldn’t need sops through reservations after ten years. But, Gandhi’s devotees were only interested in a permanent division in society. Hailed as Harijans and Adivasis, the sections were granted largesse only on paper. As Nehru opposed his own law minister, not wanting to alienate conservative elements in the party, Ambedkar quit in Sept 1951. It is time that shortchanged sections of society see through the warped history propagated by rulers. The Constitution needs far-reaching redrafting to dump senseless directions infringing on liberty of various communities to follow traditional practices.

The author is an analyst based in Ahmedabad