The Congress government plans to repeal the cow protection laws.
The Congress' intention to scrap cow protection laws has upset many people, especially Hindu organisations, mutts. Several pontiffs and seers have issued statements recently predicting communal tensions.
Savitha Nayak, a resident of Udupi’s Kukkehalli, has sheltered desi cows since at least five years now. They have had cows in their home for generations now.
“We call our cows ‘gau mata’ for a reason. Our ‘kamadenu’ provides us everything. If cow’s blood is spilled on the face of the earth, it is considered a bad omen. Maybe there’s scanty rainfall this year as a result of that. The cows take care of us, and not vice-versa.
Killing cows is a ‘maha paapa’ – supreme sin. How can we kill our gods’ creation? They can’t express in the same language as we do, but they have a life too. They have a conscience too. They have feelings too. We have grown up drinking her milk. How can we be so cruel to them?”
As soon as the Congress came to power in Karnataka, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and other leaders belonging to the party have indicated that the laws passed by the previous Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government are going to be scrapped.
This includes the Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act, 2022 (anti-conversion law) and Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020.
This has upset many people, especially Hindu organisations, mutts. Several pontiffs and seers have issued statements recently predicting communal tensions if the laws are repealed. This is more exclusive to coastal Karnataka, which is also traditionally a BJP bastion.
Coastal Karnataka is a communally sensitive region, and is home to many religious centres, including temples and mutts.
The seers have issued a statement threatening a hunger strike, should the laws against cow slaughter be repealed.
How the mutts are reacting
Speaking to Swarajya, Admar Mutt's junior pontiff Shree Eeshapriya Teertha Swamiji says that there are only benefits from protecting cows.
“If a person conditions himself to killing cows without any second thoughts, it wouldn’t be very difficult to kill a human being too. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Home Minister Parameshwar are educated people. For the sake of opposing and repealing legislations passed by the previous government, they must not be encouraged to do it.
Let them form a council of learned people to discuss this issue further. Let them enlist the importance of saving cows. If they do that, I am convinced that the government will also have a change of heart and ban illegal slaughter houses. If they try, they will be successful, I am confident”.
Vishwaprasanna Thirtha Swami from the Pejawar Mutt made a strong statement to the media when he said that the government is backtracking on its promise to reconsider repealing the laws.
"Slaughtering of cows were a common sight during one of the festivals recently. We are a cow-worshiping nation. This may lead to communal tensions in the state. The government must focus on strengthening the current laws, and not repeal them", he told the media.
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When asked about the law being scrapped, K Venkatesh, Minister of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences, said “what is wrong with slaughtering cows? If one can slaughter buffaloes and bulls, what is wrong with slaughtering cows?”
So, is it not wrong to slaughter buffaloes and bulls?
Of course it is, the people who take care of cattle say.
Just a few minutes’ drive from Udupi town, we arrive at PunyaKoti Gau Seva Kendra, an organisation that is working towards saving Malenadu Gidda, a dwarf cattle breed found in the hilly areas of the Western Ghats in Karnataka. Prasad Havanji, the trustee of the Gau Seva Kendra, says that there are scientific reasons to preventing cattle from being slaughtered, and that the reasons are not just purely religious all the time.
“It makes me very sad. They are completely ignoring sentiments of Hindus. The previous government tried to prevent slaughter of cows, but the laws are going to be repealed now. We consider cows our mother. How can we tolerate the thought of our mothers being killed?” he tells Swarajya.
PunyaKoti houses nearly 80-90 cattle, among which four to five cows produce milk. Regardless, it is one’s duty to protect cattle, Prasad adds. There are more benefits from a cow than just getting milk, he says.
Congress itself was divided on cow slaughter laws
There are political reasons for the Congress to not promote cow slaughter, some people say. When I visited him in the Mutt, Jayatheertha Acharya of Sri Raghavendra Swamy Mutt in Udupi had a wide smile on his face. While petting his pet cattle ‘Rama’, he said that several Mughal rulers like Akbar and even MPs belonging to the Congress party had earlier spoken in favour of supporting a ban on cow slaughter.
“In 1955, a senior Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Govinda Das drafted a bill for a nationwide ban on cow slaughter, stating that a larger majority of the party was in favour of it being banned. But Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru opposed this ban and threatened to resign if the elected representatives passed the bill in Indian Parliament. Nehru declared that the states held the rights to decide laws on cow slaughter, and that the Centre cannot intervene into the matter.
It costs us money to take care of cattle
The reasons are entirely not political either. A few Congress leaders have advanced an argument stating that there are financial burdens on farmers (and the exchequer, since the leather industry has taken a hit) who require a lot of money for taking care of aging cattle.
Speaking to Swarajya, Udupi’s newly elected MLA, Yashpal Anand Suvarna, remarked that the Opposition is going to ‘aggressively’ fight the government against repealing KPSPCA. He added that the Congress is only worried about appeasing the Muslim community and does not care about the overall development of the state.
“The Congress does not care about Karnataka’s fiscal health. Why else would they announce freebies so recklessly without assessing the extent of damage it can do to our economy? Only when it comes to the leather industry, they seem to be worried. They are selectively responsible, are they not?” he told Swarajya.
Furthermore, commenting on the economics of the whole issue, he asked whether the Congress were truly worried about fiscal health of Karnataka’s economy. He said that the Congress has exposed its own doublespeak since the freebies they have announced does not show that the party is even remotely bothered about the health of the economy.
Organised crime, lack of legal support: what the gau rakshaks go through
Hindu activist and former journalist Shrikanth Shetty has been involved in gauraksha for years now. He says that despite having the legislation against cow slaughter, there are practical difficulties in filing cases against cow smugglers in the region.
“They have become a mafia. We barely have any legal support. It is difficult to register an FIR against them at police stations. In CM Siddaramaiah’s first term, they fostered an environment where Hindus were hated. Now we see the same.
With their calls to ban Hindu organisations, repeal cow protection laws, it is clear what this government’s agenda is. In the past, smugglers sought help from ‘Team Garuda’ – a mob which protected smugglers against Hindu activists. They have immediate legal support if they get caught. It’s a well-oiled machinery. It has become a matter of Hindu community’s self-esteem”.
What this means for Udupi, city of Sri Krishna
There are patrons of all kinds, as far as supporting the cow shelters are concerned.
Ajay P Shetty, a local businessman, says that Udupi is Sri Krishna’s city. “We celebrate the birth of calves like we celebrate the birth of any new members in our family. The final rites are performed in the same way too. Cows are integral to us. Neither do we sell our family members or consider them to be a burden once they age.
The government is using financial burden as an excuse to repeal the laws. Free our temples, we will use our own money to protect and take care of cows. Other communities should understand our sentiments too. The burden of secularism has rested on the shoulders of Hindus for far too long. I think it is time we speak our minds”.
Ever since the Congress announced their intention to scrap the laws, Hindu organisations have expressed their protest. The voices have only grown stronger, to an extent where the CM Siddaramaiah has issued a statement saying he will 'discuss relook' at total ban on cow slaughter.
As the Karnataka Assembly is in session, it is believed that these laws are an easy target for the new Congress dispensation.
However, due to the mounting pressure on the ruling party, people are hopeful that the laws will be allowed to exist in the current form that they are in.
Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.
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