Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

This is a controversial subject and I know it will attract allegations of communal bias. What puzzles me is: a Muslim urging his community members to stop killing and eating cows is lauded everywhere. If a non Muslim writes, they are immediately accused of inciting hatred.

But it is not meant in that spirit. Last month my team has raided markets all over Assam and found hundreds of cows and calves being killed in the open and sold by shops, like chickens in wayside shops. The police used the excuse of communal law and order to do almost nothing. Cow killing is banned in Assam and it is a BJP state, but no one takes action because of a fear of riots, and Assam kills as many cows as Kerala. 

So does Bihar. One “cold storage” in Siwan, next to the slaughterhouse, had 50 tonnes of cow meat, dozens of cows tied up outside, blood and dead bodies all over the place – but the SP and the local SHO “could not find anything”.

There is no doubt in my mind that the police allow this because of the extra income they make. In Bihar cow killers work under the protection of the police, and the slaughterhouses are in Muslim ghettoes. In districts like Aurangabad, trucks full of cows go for slaughter to West Bengal every day – stopping to pay their police dues at the chungis. Any attempt to stop them is always interpreted as an “attempt to create communal disharmony”. But a law is a law. If it is illegal to cut cows, why is the law not being followed ? Yogi Adityanath inherited a state where there were over 20,000 illegal slaughterhouses. Within three months he shut them down. The same police, that allowed them to operate, moved in speedily. There are almost none now.

There is no doubt that Hindus own slaughterhouses as well – in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh especially. These are exceptions. But the beef eating Muslim has become a stereotype. And it has become the reason for tension between the communities.

And it has allowed the more rabid of all communities to come out on top. The crazies on the social media are enough to make anyone afraid. To give you one example : a man who looked like a Muslim was filmed beating a calf almost to death. There was a social media outcry. It turned out to be a drunken Hindu farmer wearing a rural Maharashtrian cap. Immediately everyone lost interest, and the calf was not confiscated by the police. It was irrelevant that this baby is being beaten every day.

Why don’t the Muslims take a decision to stop killing and eating cow meat ? The reasons are always the same :  right to eat what you want in a democracy (then why is elephant meat banned ?), caste divisions, vegetables are also live, it will destroy the fabric of India, etc. It is considered intellectually honest to organize a  “beef festival” and its counter a “pork festival” at Osmania University in Hyderabad – using the dead bodies of animals in order to have a fight.

This is not about democracy. In a democracy, I can swing my hand as high as I want as long as it does not hit your nose. Mutual understanding and tolerance are the only two routes that can make India progress.

You will say : if that is so, then why don’t the Hindus tolerate the meat eating habits of Muslims. Because gauseva is the basic tenet of this religion. The Hindus are not going to change century-old  religious beliefs.

But where in the Quran, or in any Hadith of the Holy Prophet, does it say that Muslims have to kill cows or eat their meat ? There were no cows in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and camel milk was occasionally drunk. There is absolutely no record of the Holy Prophet even eating meat.

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, a classical Islamic scholar  in Qur'anic sciences and  Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies, M. A. in Comparative Religions & Civilisations and a double M.A. in Islamic Studies from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi writes :

 “The reality is that it is neither obligatory (wajib) nor mandatory (fard) in Qur’an to consume meat. The Holy Prophet Muhammad  exhorted his followers to abstain from eating the cow’s meat. He is reported to have said in a Hadith, "There is value in cow's milk, a healing quality in its ghee, and a disease in its meat''.

This article is not about Muslims not eating meat. It is about not eating cow meat. Muslims’ self-imposition of the beef ban could go a long way to bring about a peaceful religious coexistence.

If Kashmir is considered the heart of Muslim India and Sufism its deepest soul, here is what the author of a book on Sufism, Sadia Dehlvi, writes  “I am not for bans on eating one's preferred form of meat, but let us understand that in the syncretic culture of the Kashmir valley, there has traditionally always been an understanding that beef and pork are not served on the table. The Kashmir cuisine enjoyed by both Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims uses sheep mutton and not beef. ..a voluntary decision based on mutual respect by the Kashmiris.”

Heads of the prime Sufi shrines in India have urged Muslims to give up beef. On the conclusion of the annual Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisty in Ajmer Sharif, the spiritual head of the shrine, Syed Zainul Abedin and descendant of Sufi mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti stated: “On the occasion of the 805th Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisty, who all through his life strived for peaceful coexistence of Hindus and Muslims, we Muslims should give up eating beef to honour the religious sentiments of our Hindu brethren,” (reported in HT). He  is reported to have taken a pledge that he and his family ‘would never have beef for the rest of their lives’ . “I have always believed that the cause of an issue that is creating a conflict among communities should be dealt with at the roots. Hence we used this platform on such an occasion to convey the message”.

 “Muslims should set an example by resolving to not consume beef in the interest of communal harmony in India” read the joint declaration by the heads of Sufi shrines who were part of the congregation at the Ajmer Dargah.

Bovine meat  has never been part of the Islamic identity. I quote from an article on the Islamic history in India: “From Fatwa-e-Humayuni to Durr al-Mukhtar to Maulana Hassan Nizami and Hakim Ajmal Khan, the message has been reiterated time and again that cow slaughter is not mandated in Islam, that sacrifice of sheep and goat are considered superior to cow slaughter, that poor Muslims are not obliged to offer sacrifice and that neither the Holy Quran or Arab traditions support cow sacrifice.

The Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, who led the first war of independence in 1857, had issued a decree declaring as his enemy any person who sacrificed a cow, bull or calf, and making such an act punishable by death. This was similar to a farman issued by Emperor Akbar, whose love for cows finds elaborate mention in the Ain-i-Akbari written by Abul Fazal. French Traveller Francois Bernier, who closely studied the Mughal courts, also writes that cow slaughter was akin to man slaughter under the law.

All of us dream of an India where there is no communal tension. Cow and pig meat have been a trigger since 1857. Is it not time for both communities to let these go ?

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,