COW PROTECTION IN INDIA: FROM SECULARISING TO LEGITIMATING DEBATES

Sambaiah Gundimeda and V.S. Ashwin [Alumni: 2013-15]

AZIM PREMJI UNIVERSITY, BENGALURU, INDIA AND GEORG-AUGUST UNIVERSITY, GÖTTINGEN, GERMANY

ABSTRACT Cow protection, a potent tool in the hands of cow vigilantes for atrocities against Muslims and Dalits, has become a heavily politicised issue in contemporary India. Its roots, connecting the themes of caste-Hindu religious sentiment, communalism and economic reasoning, can be traced to the late nineteenth century, though basic problems over the intriguingly complex use of cattle are clearly much older. This article relates contemporary cow protection debates specifically to Arya Samaj arguments against cow slaughter in the late nineteenth century and publication of a special issue of the journal Kalyan, titled Gau Ank, in 1945. The discussion shows how cow protection debates in the Constituent Assembly of India and in subsequent post-independence judicial verdicts were heavily influenced by these two earlier discourses. Analysing two landmark judicial decisions on cow slaughter, the article argues further that recent judicial endorsement of cow protection legitimises Hindu majoritarian sentiments in the law, while depriving millions of Indians, not just Muslims, of fundamental rights to food and livelihood. The conclusion attempts to consider some possible solutions to the current impasse.

 KEYWORDS: Arya Samaj, beef, BJP, Constitution, cow-slaughter, Dalits, Gau Ank, Hindutva, India, judiciary, Muslims, Supreme Court

Cow Protection in India – From Secularising to Legitimating Debates

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