Can you tell which religion they belong to? (Photo: Satish Chapparike)
I am a Jain by birth. I was born in a very traditional, agrarian Digambar Jain family in a remote village called Chapparike in the Western Ghats region of Karnataka, India. The members of my family who are still living in my village follow the toughest rules and traditions of Jainism and they are the purest vegetarians. For the four-and-a-half decades since my birth, I have also consciously practiced strict vegetarianism. My transgressions were few: I once tasted a ham pizza by mistake and another time I ate an egg omelette when travelling in the Rajdhani Express from Bangalore to Delhi (the latter caused a life-long aversion!).
All along the course of my life, during which I travelled across India, the UK, Sri Lanka and Nepal and encountered different beliefs, religions and food habits, I remained a vegetarian by choice. However, it doesn't mean I ate only in restaurants that served exclusively vegetarian fare or that I spent time only with friends who are vegans like myself. I have dined at a number of dedicatedly non-vegetarian restaurants across the countries I visited, sat with many friends who just love meat and ate my meal without any fuss. I have a friend who loves beef and "The Only Place" at the Museum Road in Bangalore is his favourite destination. Many a times, I sat with him eating vegetable pasta while he tucked into beef parmigiana with all the happiness of the world. Our religion, caste, beliefs never came in between our friendship and food habits. I never felt troubled sitting with a beef eater.
"The forces that are gaining mileage out of whipping up religious sentiments are neither true Hindus nor human beings."
The lynching of 50-year-old Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri, an attack motivated by rumours that he stored and ate beef in his home, really disturbed me, a staunch believer in Ahimsa Paramo Dharma (non-violence is the highest virtue). I strongly believe that though caste and religion were forced upon an individual at birth, they should remain individual choices. Every human being should get that independence and society should allow a person to live his or her own life. No one should force religion or food habits on anybody.
If we dig deep in Hinduism, there is no restriction on eating beef. Since the Vedic times, the Hindus sacrificed animals and ate cows and buffalos. According to Arthashastra, the cows that no longer gave milk were permitted to be slaughtered and eaten. In ancient India, male calves and bulls were eaten. Hinduism never put restrictions on eating buffalo meat. No doubt the majority of the Indian population are Hindus. Minorities like the Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and the Christians have to respect the majority's religious sentiments. But beef is a consumed by many Hindus in several parts of the country.
Then who is playing with this "cow" sentiment and lynching the plurality of this great country?
The answer: A bunch of upper caste psychos, a fringe pseudo-political setup and the party that draws its strength from the polarising religious sentiments. The irony is that though these psychos project themselves as the sole protectors of the holy cow, they eat plenty of mutton and chicken when there are no cameras around. I personally know many politicians and fringe psychos who are against eating beef and cow slaughter but secretly relish chicken and mutton in their private parties. If slaughtering a cow is crime, then killing chicken and sheep is also a crime! If we follow strict Jainism, not even a single animal should be killed, including bacteria in the air! Can anyone dare to follow these rules? But, this world does not belong to only one religion like Jainism or Hinduism. This world belongs to all of humanity and every human being has a right to make choices and live life as they see fit as long as they do not impinge on the rights of others.
"If India becomes a Hindu nation, it won't be different than the present Pakistan, the "Muslim nation"... We'll turn into a rogue nation."
Cow politics is nothing but a shame on the Indian democracy and ultimately a big black spot on the plurality of this country. The forces that are gaining mileage out of whipping up religious sentiments are neither true Hindus nor human beings. They are just playing dirty politics and killing innocent human beings for the greed of power. They are harming the democratic pillar of India and no one should entertain them. For God's sake, if anyone is dreaming about converting India into a "Hindu" nation, kindly put a full stop to that. If India becomes a Hindu nation, it won't be different than the present Pakistan, the "Muslim nation". All our dreams of India becoming a superpower will come to nought. We'll turn into a rogue nation, Like Pakistan. Do any of us want that?
From the day of Independence, communal harmony and brotherhood made this country the biggest and one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. It is a nation with the greatest hope on this planet. As President Pranab Mukherjee rightly said, "It is the unity, communal harmony, brotherhood and peace that will take this nation forward." Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi endorsed the President's stand and urged Hindus and Muslims to work together to fight the common enemy of poverty and to ignore the "irresponsible" statements made by politicians.
The problem with the saffron fringe is that it does not understand the gravity and the importance of the situation. Here is the greatest opportunity for a right wing leader - Narendra Modi - to emerge as one of the finest statesmen of India since Jawaharlal Nehru, but his own supporters are slaughtering his chances with their cow politics.
Let us keep aside religion and politics, and let us not lynch humans and humanity in the name of cow worship. Let us not turn India into a rogue nation.