Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hindus and their Holy Cow

After the sweeping election win of Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party last year, there is a barrage of Hindu propaganda coming from Modi and his government about the so-called glorious past of India and the sacred Hindu culture. Hindu fundamentalist forces, under the tutelage of Modi and his government, are busy attacking the Muslim and Christian minorities while BJP's backers, the RSS, wants Modi government to declare India as a Hindu nation! BJP governments in various states like Maharashtra and Haryana have gone so far as to ban the eating of cow beef totally saying that for Hindus cow is sacred. The myth of India's Holy Cow perpetuates and gives a (phony) justification to such draconian measures of these state governments.

What I want do in this brief article is reveal the reality of the Hindu Holy Cow. I will present the underlying cause of this old Hindu ban/taboo on eating cow beef. What factors are driving this ban? How and when this ban originated? What were the realities about eating of animal meat of Indian Hindus, especially the present non-beef eating upper Brahmin caste, before this ban/taboo came into effect slowly? I will give answers of these questions. Searching for this Truth will also expose the myth which the fundamentalist people are spreading about the Indian culture. I am right now reading Columbia anthropologist Professor Marvin Harris' wonderful book Cannibals and Kings where he explains the origin of not only this taboo on eating cows but also all other kinds of religious taboos like a ban/taboo on eating pigs amongst the ancient Israelites and the Muslims today. Harris devotes one full separate chapter on explaining the origins of the Indian Holy Cow i.e., ban on eating cow beef. I will use Harris' quotes to explain this historical taboo, which is still working under Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP government, but in a different political garb.

Harris' main line of argument about the origin of culture - including such religious bans - goes like this:

So, this is the origin of human culture. The reproductive pressure results into intensification of production process which in turn results into depletion of ecological resources which then leads to different cultural practices like the Hindu ban on eating cow beef to counter the deteriorating benefit-cost ratio of standard of living and survival. Religion provides just an excuse and a motive force to enforce such bans which are necessary to maintain the population from dying off in the face of such ecological depletion.  

What is the origin of all kinds of religious taboos on eating animal flesh? I said all kinds of animals because the Hindu ban on eating cow beef is not unique in the world. Muslims also have a religious ban on eating Pigs. Single common principle is behind all these bans. Harris provides the answer:

This principle applies to the ban on eating Cow flesh by Hindus as well as ban on eating Pigs by Muslims. As I have said above, this ban has nothing to do with Cow as some Holy animal which should be worshiped for its own sake. In fact, the treatment of Cow by the Hindus as mostly a scavenger animal speaks amply about the real treatment given to it by them! Oxens and Bulls are given more importance because they are the ones which are most useful in agriculture. Cow gives birth to these Oxens and Bulls and also provides essential nutrient in form of milk and its products so it is allowed to wander here and there to scavenge on trash and stay alive. The ban is a practical cost-benefit calculation by the Hindus to protect their standard of living. Religion is a powerful proscription tool for this ban to become effective and so the religious veneer was applied historically to this ban.

The history of Hindu holy cow is also quite revealing looking at the present worship of cow by Hindus. Historically all ancient Vedic people use to eat animal flesh with taste, including, and more often by, Hindu Brahmin priests! In fact, these priest had the monopoly over animal sacrifice and eating. Here is Marvin Harris again: 

This is the real history which no one teaches in the classrooms. Around the 4th century BC, because of production intensification and ecological depletion cows became more important alive for farming rather than dead for her flesh, the Hindu farmers one by one started implementing this ban on slaughtering cow. As Harris explains, it were the low caste Hindu farmers who stopped eating cow flesh first because they can't afford to lose their cows during one or two drought seasons (if they kill cattle in drought then when rain again arrives they are left with no cattle for farming, which became main source of food supply by then). But when commoners stopped eating cow beef, the elite Brahman priests were still lustily eating it!  

So, the Hindu holy cow is just a cultural phenomenon which has its roots in cold cost-benefit calculations by human beings for their survival like all other cultural traits. My purpose of presenting this history is to expose the lies that the present government and its Hindu nationalist backers are spreading. The ban which was started to safeguard the standard of living of people has became a political tool today. Politicians are using it for the same purpose of their own survival i.e., winning elections and remaining in power to plunder people! I personally have no problem whatsoever with peoples' eating habits. Everyone is Free to Choose whatever they want to eat as long as they follow the Libertarian principle of Non-Aggression i.e., they don't physically harm or threaten to harm other humans and their pet animals, which is their private property. In the end, as Marvin Harris said, when it comes to survival, economics mostly trumps over religion:

This means, as long as the cost-benefit ratio is in favor of Cow as alive animal, the ban will remain in place. The day eating cow again becomes more beneficial, don't be surprised to see Hindus themselves start slaughtering and eating cows again! Ultimately, it is a matter of survival, and when it comes to survival, history is evident that, humans will not hesitate in killing and eating other humans also (as many past Cannibalistic societies have done)!!!  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Modi's Myanmar Gamble

A day before yesterday the Indian military commandos, allegedly as said by the Indian government official Rajayavardan Rathod, crossed the border of Myanmar (Burma) to attack and kill some 50+ so-called separatist rebel fighters. This cross-border attack came in the wake of an attack on the Indian military forces in Manipur few days back by these rebel fighters who killed some 20 Jawans of Indian army during that attack. Narendra Modi government's Junior minister for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said the government had taken the bold step to strike at militant camps and he congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for doing so ... He also told ... it was a signal to neighbours that India will not tolerate militant attacks from across its borders. "It is undoubtedly a message to all nations that harbour any intentions - be it the west or the specific country we went into right now. Even if there are groups within countries that harbour terror intentions, we will choose the time and the place of hitting them." These hawkish statements by Modi government ministers has sent alarms specially in Pakistan, and its government ministers and military generals are reacting strongly. After this reaction too, the Indian defense minister, Manohar Parrikar, continues to issue hawkish statements. He said, "those who fear India's new posture have already started reacting". "If the thinking pattern changes, lot of things change. You have seen for the last 2-3 days. A simple action against insurgents has changed the mindset of the full security scenario in the country." 

Parikkar is correct when he said that, full security scenario in the country has changed after these cross-border strikes. The security scenario in this region is now more unstable after these war mongering of Modi and his government ministers. Indians, Pakistanis, other neighboring country citizens and the world at large are slowly drifting towards a greater danger after every such war actions by the Indian, Pakistani and Chinese governments. All the war mongers who are cheering these strikes should not forget the fact, that the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir and this whole region of South-Asia is a very vulnerable geographic region from the point of view of security (e.g., read this very important book War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet of war journalist Eric Margolis). Any small policy mistake, and there are always chances of making such mistakes, by these war hawk politicians can turn the whole region into a Nuclear holocaust because not only the Indian government has Nuclear bombs, but more importantly, even Pakistani government and mad military generals also have them too! By resorting to these war actions, Modi and his government is taking India and the whole world closer to this Nuclear Holocaust. One must understand that, war is never an answer of any problem. It can only lead to further problems.

The major issue here is that the Indian state is trying forcibly to keep the whole region together, which historically was never together. These small so-called separatist movements are actually secessionist movements. What these rebels are fighting for is not their own rule over Delhi and India, but for their autonomy. They just want to separate from the Indian state, and there is nothing wrong in it. Two people or regions of people can stay together for long only via voluntary agreement and mutual consent. Just like in a marriage when one spouse is not happy with his/her partner, he/she can take divorce, so similarly when some people don't want to be ruled by the Indian state, they must be allowed to separate peacefully. If they are not allowed peacefully, like what the Indian state is doing, then this bloodbath will be the unfortunate end result, which ultimately is not good for anyone. In these bloody battles of States for supremacy, the whole region will be ruined one day.

On the other side, I also feel that Modi has initiated these foreign wars just to bolster his dwindling support in India and to deflect the attention of public from failures of his domestic policies. Even after one year of coming to power in Delhi, his government is not able to do anything substantial, especially about the failing Indian economy. Modi's dream projects like the Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan or the Make in India campaign are producing no concrete results (as expected); He has also failed in reigning in his ministers from spreading communal hatred in the country. Also, his many, tax payer funded, foreign trips are also not producing anything substantial on the economy or foreign policy front. His party BJP lost horribly against AAP in Delhi elections, and he must be fearing similar rout in the coming elections of Bihar and other states. His BJP party is nothing except his own (false) charisma, which is now fading slowly. His empty rhetorics are getting exposed with the every passing day in the eyes of the Indian voter public. Fearing all these, just like a typical politician, he has decided to divert nation's attention to foreign front via these cross-border military action. This ploy of politicians of deflecting attention outside the country during the time of internal crisis for their rule is very old e.g., Indira Gandhi used it in 1971 to bolster her grip on power, war mongering about Kashmir is the bread and butter issue for the Pakistani politicians, America's Bush Jr. used the Iraq war to bolster his falling local ratings and to win second term etc. Hitler's Nazi party colleague and his right hand man Hermann Göring revealed this age old trick when he said,
“Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or fascist dictorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”  
Indian citizens are well advised to be careful before they start cheering these war actions. Cheering for a war and fighting an actual war are two totally different things. War is a pure horror, which will ruin this country (if you want to see what horror war is then take a look at these ghastly pictures from Iraq war here (These pictures are real horror so viewers discretion is advised). Modi and his irresponsible ministers are playing with fire when they are inciting hatred not only in India but with other countries too. These rhetorics can win them elections, but, most importantly, it can very well turn India and this whole region into rubble also. Support any kind of war mongering only if you want to destroy this country. It is important to pierce through the war propaganda of Modi and any other government whether that be of Congress or AAP or any other political party, and work for worldwide Peace. Love and Peace can only result into progress. Hatred and war will always ruin humanity.