Of course, the cow has long had a place in Indian politics: the country’s constitution includes a provision explicitly urging a gradual movement toward full prohibition of cow slaughter – a ban that has already been implemented in most states. The cow was possibly revered because human beings relied heavily on it for dairy products and for tilling the fields, and on cow dung as a source of fuel and fertilizer. Cow protection was a significant part of the freedom movement, championed by a person no less than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi himself. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow. It means protection of that lives and is helpless and weak in the world.” Reverence for cows is in the major texts of the Vedic religion. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I worship it and I shall defend its worship against the whole world,” Gandhi regarded Cow better than the earthly mother, and called her “the mother to millions of Indian mankind.” Cow protection has become a highly politicized core of the Hindu religion. Killing and maiming innocent animals for human consumption is the most irreligious, immoral and lowest human act. Indians have reasoned that killing a cow akin to killing your own mother.
In India, the cow is considered holy, and many devout Hindus devote themselves to protecting cows from slaughter and abuse — sometimes with violent results. Cow protection didn’t become India’s top political issue in 2017 overnight. There is a strong history and background to it that allows the BJP to garner such widespread public support while championing the bovine cause. Cow vigilante groups have become increasingly active in many parts of India. Rather than encouraging these cow vigilantes to take law into their hands, the government should strictly enforce laws so that no such illegal transportation or cow slaughter occurs in the first place. Animal slaughtering is wrong as they are also sentient beings and feel as much pain as we humans do. Not just cows but all the animals should be protected and not murdered to merely satisfy our taste buds.
Breaking his silence on cow vigilantes in the country Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly condemned their actions, saying most of them were anti-social elements masquerading as gau rakshaks (cow protectors).The first organised cow protection movement was started by Dayanand Saraswati and his organisation, the Arya Samaj, in the late 1800s. India has 150 million cows today, giving an average of less than 200 litres of milk per year. The cow has been a symbol of wealth in India since ancient times. However, they were neither inviolable nor revered in the same way today. Nowadays, it has been slaughtered in large numbers. The National Democratic Alliance government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee did try to protect old cattle through the provision of monthly allowance—a scheme of the Animal Welfare Board then under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. But the scheme was never implemented. Cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world.
Commercial benefits are not the only criteria in a human life. Cow-based farming has been the backbone of our agriculture for centuries. That is why cow slaughter was banned even by some Muslim rulers, including Akbar. On our birth our mother breast fed us for a period of time. Then for the rest of our life we are fed by cows, without even feeding their calves. The cow is very much attached to the sentiment and the cultural traditions of the people. It is to be remembered that cow is the back-bone of Indian economy. India was golden bird until cow was base of agriculture. It is our duty to inform the poorly informed the bad consequences of animal slaughter for human consumption. We call the cow our mother. It’s not our duty to protect our mother? Even though the government runs several goshalas, shelters for old cattle, across the country, but these are too few and are not governed by serious norms. Government must put a check on the people who are running shops in the name of cow protection which welcomes donations and outside help in the name of cow protection. We need to spread awareness about the cow and its many uses.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)