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The Real Reason Why Some People Turn Animal Rights Activists On Eid

Hint: calls for eco-friendly Holi and Diwali.

13/09/2016 9:53 AM IST | Updated 13/09/2016 12:08 PM IST
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Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters
A woman gives water to a goat at her house after purchasing it at a livestock market on the eve of the Eid ul Azha festival in Kolkata, India September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

It's become an annual ritual for Indian social media, objecting to Bakrid, or Eid ul Azha. They've been trending #EcoFriendlyEid on Twitter. One news channel even found it worthy of a prime-time debate.

Here's an example of a typical complaint.

Out of the blue, once every year, people whose social media handles often call themselves 'proud Hindu' and 'nationalist' think Bakrid is World Goat Rights Day, and yes, it's about saving the environment as much as saving goats.

The tweet quoted above makes it clear what it's really about. It is some strange revenge to make the two most important Hindu festivals, Holi and Diwali, more eco-friendly.

What is being sought to be delegitimised here is not just the Muslim festival of Bakrid, but also the civic activism to make Holi and Diwali more eco-friendly.

Those who call for an eco-friendly Holi are not against Holi, or Hinduism. This article, for instance, says eco-friendly Holi is about saving water and saving your skin with home-made colours. How is that anti-Hindu? In a Hindu-majority country, saving water is going to benefit more Hindus than non-Hindus, no? (Yes, this is what it has come to.)

Home-made or organic colour powder in the market is good for those who play Holi. Is it not bizarre that our proud, nationalist, animal-loving Twitter Hindu would rather play with chemical colours that could infect their own skin?

What is being sought to be delegitimised here is not just the Muslim festival of Bakrid, but also the civic activism to make Holi and Diwali more eco-friendly.

Chemically made colours and endless supply of municipal water were surely not around in the glorious, ancient, timeless, golden era of Hindus, long before foreign invaders (except the Aryans) arrived? It is strange that our proud nationalist Twitter Hindus want to go back to that mythical glorious era of Hinduism but get so riled up about having to give up synthetic colours that they wear their saffron bands and shout in unison, "What about the goats on Eid?"

You'd think Hindus who claim to be proud of their heritage would want to dip into their heritage and realise that bright flowers were used to make the Holi colours, their scent and medicinal properties an added benefit to the festivities.

By contrast, playing with those synthetic colours cause skin and eye infections — they affect humans, us, Hindu or non-Hindu.

What is so anti-Hindu about suggesting that we play Holi with colours that don't have silica, lead, glass particles, chromium, alkaline particles, mercury oxide, Rhodamine B, copper sulphate, aluminium bromide and so on? These chemicals are bad for the environment too.

Why does it get their goat if one points out academic studies that show a mass problem of skin infections such as itching, burning sensation, pain, oozing, scaling and much worse? In the long run, these chemicals could also cause skin cancer. When synthetic colours permanently blind children playing Holi, why does our proud Hindu not say, "Hey, what about Eid?", instead of waiting till Bakrid to say, "Hey, what about the goats?"

Ditto for Diwali. It's meant to be the festival of light, not sound and smoke. Air pollution goes up by as much as 20 times on Diwali. The air and noise pollution affects us all, and yes, more Hindus than non-Hindus in a Hindu-majority country. There are Hindus out there who'd like to breathe better on Diwali. There are the elderly and sick people, those with asthma and other lung diseases, whose health is badly affected by Diwali firecrackers. Just how is it anti-Hindu to ask for noiseless crackers that pollute a little less?

While we are at it, let us also remember the frequent accidents at the firecracker factories that kill, yes, Hindu workers. One could also highlight the child labour in these factories but now we are getting way too anti-Hindu.

Diwali firecrackers are relentless torture for animals. Like humans, they too get respiratory problems. Birds are so traumatised they stop chirping for days. On such days, if you care for animal rights, you'd be called anti-Hindu. (Here are some bad Hindus in a Tamil Nadu village who gave up fire crackers because they cared about the birds.)

There are Hindus out there who'd like to breathe better on Diwali. There are the elderly and sick people, those with asthma and other lung diseases, whose health is badly affected by Diwali firecrackers. Just how is it anti-Hindu to ask for noiseless crackers that pollute a little less?

There's just one day in the year when you must care for animal rights, Bakrid. Muslims — many, but not all — buy a goat and keep it at home for a few days. On Eid, they call over a butcher and a goat they had come to love as a pet is butchered. This is a ritual sacrifice of a loved one. The debate over the ritual apart, the practice doesn't blind anyone, doesn't kill people in fire accident, does not cause skin infections, doesn't blind your eyes, worsen your asthma, and so on.

Don't eat cow meat, they said, because it hurts Hindu sentiments. Then they began to classify buffalo meat as cow meat, because beef is such a confusing term, you know. Now they are saying don't kill goats on Bakrid. Next they will say don't butcher goats at all. One day they'll declare India a vegetarian country. The only meat they will allow in the Hindu Republic of Bharat will be pork. Pigs don't have rights because the Islamic prohibition on pork imbues them with great potential to offend Muslims.

You could, of course, be the sort of animal-rights activist who opposes non-vegetarianism, but then you wouldn't be doing so only on Bakrid. Doing it only on one day of the year is a clear exercise in targeting one community. We could instead have a debate about meat-eating in general, one that takes into account complex arguments from all sides involved.

I look forward to eco-friendly feasting on kebabs, biryani and qorma today. Eid Mubarak.

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