In what could turn out to be the regeneration of half-century-old remains but the killings are not pardoned even today. 53 years ago in 1966 November, thousands of gau rakshaks, with sadhus and other religious leaders among them, marched towards Parliament demanding a law banning cow slaughter across the country. COW has a religious Importance for Hindus. Cow is the holiest animal for Hindus and its slaughtering is an insult to us. Hindus revere Cows. An early commentator of Rigveda ‘Yaska’ gives nine names to Cow. One of which is ‘aghnya’ meaning that which may not be slaughtered. In Rigveda a cow is depicted as a symbol of wealth. It is believed that the Cow’s body is represented by devas. Cow’s milk is a purifier and scientifically proved to be safe for new born babies if mother feed is not available. Cow dung used as fertilizer, as fuel and disinfectant. Cow’s urine has medicinal value.
We consider gifting of cows as sacred. For all rituals we offer prayers to cows first. Whether entering a newly built house or before a marriage ceremony or other important occasions. Hindus give highest respect and obeisance to cows. Our Upanishads and Vedas say cows should be protected. Not only BJP and RSS, the entire Hindu samaj is against cow slaughtering.
Right wing organizations agitated to demand a ban on the slaughter of cows in India, as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Among others, the Shankaracharya fasted for the cause. The agitation concluded in a massive demonstration outside Sansad Bhavan in New Delhi. Indira Gandhi was then the prime minister of India.
As per Hindu Panchang, that day was Kartik Shukla Ashtami of Vikram Samvat, known as Gopashtami among Hindus. Then the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi did not accept the demand for a ban on cow slaughtering. A mass of 10,000 advocates against cow slaughter, led by Hindu Sadhus and thousands of anti-slaughter Hindu devotees tried to rainstorm the parliament but they were disallowed. Around 3 to 7 lakh sadhus and saints were attacked by the Delhi police who spewed bullets, released tear gas shells and charged at them with rods and batons, on the orders of Indira Gandhi.
According to official figures, 250 sadhus were killed on the streets of Delhi on that day, but according to non-official claims, at least 5000 saints were murdered. The Shankracharya Niranjandev Tirth, Swami Hariharananda Ji, widely known as Karpatriji Maharaj and Mahatma Ramchandra Veer went to observe fast unto death for the brutal killing of sadhus and Gau-bhakt devotees in Delhi. Mahatma Ramchandra Veer observed a 166 days long fast at that time. The next Home Minister (from 14 November 1966 to 27 June 1970) and Yashwantrao Balwantrao Chavan went to the fasting saints and promised to bring the ‘anti-slaughter bill’ in the next session of parliament and the saints ended their fasting. But, the anti-Hindu Congress government never kept their promise.
There was widespread condemnation of the police firing and the government’s inept handling of the situation. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sensing the disquiet, sacked veteran politician Gulzarilal Nanda, who was then the home minister. Nanda had served twice as a caretaker PM, when Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri died within a span of less than two years, and was a respected senior figure. He was, however, also a patron of the Bharat Sadhu Samaj and widely seen as sympathetic to the protesters’ cause. The development did not have any immediate fallout but in 1967, Indira saw the rise of regional parties who were backed by RSS-Jan Sangh across the country. For the first time, nine Indian states had non-Congress governments.
The cow slaughter issue subsequently forced Indira Gandhi to set up a panel under a retired Supreme Court chief justice AK Sarkar to see if a nationwide ban on cow slaughter was feasible. She made RSS chief MS Golwalkar a member of the panel, along with the Shankaracharya of Puri, V Kurien of the National Dairy Development Board, economist Ashok Mitra and others. The committee’s initial mandate was to submit a report in six months’ time but it kept delaying until it was dismissed in 1979 by the Moraji Desai government.
After a great struggle, cow slaughter is illegal in all the states of India, with Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand leading the list in the terms of severity of punishment. A person found guilty of cow slaughter can be sent to 10 years imprisonment in these two states. In Bihar, slaughter of cows, calves banned; of bulls, bullocks older than 15 years allowed. Violators face 6 months’ jail and/or Rs 1,000 fine. Slaughter of cow, buffalo, bull, bullock, calf, and possession of their meat banned in Punjab. Transport, export to other states for slaughter is also banned; attracts the same punishment of 7 years’ jail, fine up to Rs 50,000. Slaughter of all cow clans punishable by 5 years’ jail in Himachal Pradesh. Killing allowed in the interest of research, or if an animal has contagious disease.