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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 43 New Delhi October 17, 2015

Do Not Play With Fire

Monday 19 October 2015

The recent Vedic Sanskrit conference held at University of Delhi shows a deliberate effort being made by the BJP Government to create a divisive strategy. No, I have nothing against Sanskrit. I myself had taken it in my Intermediate class as one of the choice subjects. But to be frank, it was more because it is a scoring subject than out of any foolish boastful claim of its supremacy amongst the languages. Each language has a claim of its own and area and philosophy. Languages which in daily use are the ones need to be promoted—learning of classical languages like Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic (in India) can only be the specialities—in day-to-day administration and education. Hindi, Urdu and the State languages are the only practical alternatives.

But there are deliberate efforts to claim artificial superiority. The divisive remarks of Dina Nath Batra, the convener of the RSS-backed Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (who is writing moral science textbook for the BJP’s Haryana Government) has the effrontery to declare that while Ramayana and Mahabharata are History and should be taught in schools, not Quran and Bible which he does not consider History. Can anything be more provocative and a certain recipe for spreading communal tension?

The Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, while having succeeded in creating an unseemly controversy over the Nehru Library and the contrived resignation of its Director, Mahesh Rangarajan, entered triumphantly the Nehru Library accompanied by other stalwarts of the BJP, and said that there should be a full debate on all subjects and highlighted BJP leader Din Dayal Upadhyay’s “Integral Humanism”. The suggestion is welcome, though the attitude is divisive. But then this debate should be open to all the views. In praising Upadhyay the BJP liberally refers to his association with Dr Lohia —if so, it is only fair that the President of the Socialist Party (India) who is the follower of JP and Dr Lohia should be associated with it. It appears also that the Indian Council of Historical Research has decided on a project to map the country’s scientific achievements starting from the Vedic times to the 18th century. To give authenticity to this project, amongst others, the inclusion of Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib, the seniormost Historians of India, and some of the top intellectuals of the country like T.K. Oomen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology (JNU) and former President of International Sociological Associ-ation, is a must as it will lend credence to the study.

In the meanwhile, will the Ministry of Education look into the enormity of the slavish mentality impact of the old British regime in continuing the old university syllabus—while the university may legitimately have course studies on Machiavelli, how is it that there is no course, no study of Chanakya who by all standards was one of the highest political strategists of his time?

Also the caste system is the most talked-about subject of national debate and politics in our country. And yet Dr Rammanohar Lohia, the Socialist leader’s treatise and writings on the caste system in its various dimensions is not even a recommended study, while in fact on merit it should be a compulsory paper in the subject of Sociology/Politics.

The rabid communal behaviour of the BJP leadership is encouraging the local satraps to spread the communal poison by viciously high-lighting its demand on the ban on beef. Provocative statements are being made to malign Muslims on this irrelevant topic of one’s eating habits.

An anti-Muslim atmosphere is being created. This is shown by the recent tragic happening in Bisada village, Dadri where the BJP and RSS-led mob attacked a Muslim residence and killed a Muslim man on the allegation that he had beef in his house. This is nothing short of murder—in a democracy eating habits of the people cannot be determined by the state machinery.

Is it not tragically farcical that a Muslim should be killed by false allegation of keeping a small piece of beef at home in Dadri, UP, while ironically, among the Indian States, Uttar Pradesh (UP) has emerged as the biggest exporter of buffalo meat? UP also has the highest number of abattoirs-cum-meat processing export units. The State has 317 registered slaughter houses and, in addition, 24 export-oriented units for buffalo meat. Of the total Indian carabeef exports, 67 per cent originates from this State.

The legal position has been settled by the Supreme Court since 1959 which has held: “A total ban [on cattle slaughter] was not permi-ssible if, under economic conditions, keeping useless bull or bullock be a burden on the society and therefore not in the public interest.”

Such a ban, according to reliable estimates, has the potential to pull down India’s annual GDP growth rate by about two per cent.

Another study by Abusaleh Shariff [an economist who is currently working at the US-India Policy Institute, Washington D.C.] shows that between April-November 2014, the sale of bovine meat and meat products was worth $ 3.3 billion compared to $ 2.8 billion in the same period the previous year, registering a 16.7 per cent increase. It is useful to understand the above amounts in the context of Indian’s annual trade deficit. From April 2014 to March 2015, the deficit was estimated at $ 137 billion, which was higher than the deficit of $ 134 billion the previous financial year.

More sinister is the false propaganda by the RSS and VHP goons against the Muslims considering that the monetary benefits of trade in beef are being almost exclusively enjoyed by the Hindus. It may be noted that the over-whelming export is of buffalo meat which is named also as beef. Thus a study by ummid.com has found that “Muslims are earning just a peanut as against the general perception about the trade, and it is actually the government and non-Muslims who are benefiting the most from about 4.5 billion US dollar animal slaughter business.”

Its further finding is that: “Except for direct consumption, where also Muslims and non-Muslims both are at par in terms of taking beef, in the rest of all associated business, including meat export, bone crushing and powder industry, leather industry, horn processing industry, blood processing, animal fat and soap industry, except for a few exceptions, each one is dominated entirely by non-Muslims.”

The author, a retired Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, was the Chairperson of the Prime Minister’s high-level Committee on the Status of Muslims and the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing. A former President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), he is a tireless champion of human rights. He can be contacted at e-mail: rsachar1@vsnl.net /rsachar23 @bol.net.in