Post the lynching in Dadri of the fifty-two-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq on the suspicion of having stored beef in the refrigerator, even a child in India knows that the current Hindu love for the cow is a pretext for Muslim-hatred.
No amount of condemnation of this tendency will stop attacks on Muslims (and on other beef-eating communities like Dalits and Christians) as it is only by attacking the religious other that the right-wing Hindu affirms his Hinduness--a quality derived from the 19th century religion Hinduism made up of sects and belief-systems so diverse, mutually antagonistic and amorphous as to be literally non-existent.
This is a structural problem woven into the very fabric of the Hindu nationalist identity constructed as a racial one and traced back to indigenous Aryans imagined by the nineteenth and twentieth century Hindu nationalists. The way out of this impasse, as far as I can see, is either to reformulate the Hindu identity to represent the genuine diversity and plurality that the term Hindu encompasses, or to dismantle it altogether as a meaningless term useful only for crafty politicians to sway the credulous masses during elections.
But how do we speak to those who invoke animal rights, however disingenuously, while speaking about the Hindu love for cows? Do we question them about their silence on the slaughter of poultry, sheep, pigs and other animals? Do we ask them about their disdain for 'the brown cows', the buffaloes, whose industrial slaughter has made India the largest exporter of beef (buffalo-meat) in the world in 2015? Or do we swallow our disgust for their hypocrisy and Muslim hatred and continue to reason? Well, it is when hypocrisy is the order of the day and air is heavy with hatred that one needs to unleash the transformative capacity of free and fearless speech.
So where are the cow-lovers wrong other than in their fascistic manner of invoking animal rights to disguise and legitimize their hatred of Muslims, Dalits and Christians?
Well, to being with, these 'animal rights activists' should get some clarity on the concept of animal rights, the legal status of animals and the kind of rights that can be offered to them within the current legal framework. Animals, all over the world, have the legal status of property and the only way to give them rights is to grant them the status of persons. So the cow, if it is to have rights, should be treated not as property but as person. That is, a cow, because of the anthropocentric nature of our legal system, can only have rights as a human. So to offer legal protection to cows we have to invoke human rights and any possibility of offering legal safeguard to cows in the future depends on a strong culture of protecting and defending human rights. But what is happening to human rights in this country?
In the name of protecting the cow and safeguarding its rights the Hindu nationalists are violating the human rights of Muslims, minorities as well as other Hindu beef-eaters. In other words, by invalidating the very notion of human rights these Hindu 'animal rights activists' are destroying the legal basis on which the rights of cows and other animals could be secured. The general Hindutva disregard for human rights is not only making life insufferable for the Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and other minorities, it is also making future interventions within the human rights framework to protect the interests of animals impossible.
But what is this Hindutva which has indirectly coerced a meat-eating third-world country to suddenly think seriously about the rights of cows? Are the Hindu nationalists really concerned about the rights of animals? The answer of course is no, but it is time to spell out clearly what the Hindutva ideology really stands for. Hindutva is a religio-nationalist ideology of affirming the supremacy of Hindus by alienating and demonizing the religious other; to be more precise, it is the ideology and politics of Muslim and Dalit eliminationism.
Almost everything that Hindutva affirms like the Aryan autochthony, the conception of the Hindu as a race, Hinduism as a unitary and perennial (sanatan) dharma or way of life, the Vedic civilization as a scientific civilization, varna and caste system as a benign and beneficial system of social classification, the systematic destruction of a 'Hindu' civilization by Muslims and Christians, are patent lies and fairy tales and a hateful, chauvinist and genocidal ideology like this founded on falsehood and fabrications does not have - or should not have - a future in a world where humans in their wisdom are resituating themselves, in the words of Mary Midgley, not as a self-contained and self-sufficient species, or individuals, but as those which live in deep mutual dependence. So Hindutva as a fascistic politics of hatred is not just an Indian problem but, like Hitler's Nazism and Islamic extremism, a global menace which must be contained by all those concerned about social exclusion, violation of human rights, deterioration of democratic freedoms and elimination of religious minorities.
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