Much of the BJP's core Hindutva thinking is Brahminical Meghnad Desai
Mahadev Desai reports a conversation between Sardar Patel and Gandhiji. Sardar says Hindus don't eat meat. Gandhiji corrects him and says many Hindus eat meat. He knew that while Gujaratis are largely vegetarian thanks to the Vaishnavite and Jain influences, elsewhere Hindus ate meat. Of course, Brahmins did not eat meat. Kashmiri Brahmins are an exception.
Lower-caste Hindus have eaten meat routinely. The Dalit jaatis taking care of the carcass of dead cows could not afford to throw the meat away. There are other upper-caste practices such as the ban on widow remarriage which had no prevalence among the majority of Hindus - OBCs and Dalits. Any jaati which wished to 'Sanskritise' would give up meat and improve its ritual status.
Much of the BJP's core Hindutva thinking is Brahminical. But politically the move by BJP governments in Maharashtra and elsewhere to ban meat is a gesture to tell Muslims who is now the ruler. They also inconvenience many Hindus as the Shiv Sena pointed out, but then power tends to corrupt and many in the BJP are enjoying the corruption. They even succeeded in making the harmless Jain community hated by banning meat during Paryushan.
The Prime Minister wants to concentrate on development, Digital India and Swachh Bharat. But his party is impatient for the cultural battle. They want the Temple and ban on beef production, sale and consumption. Why they also want to ban export is beyond me. Why not let the rest of the world eat beef it wants to?
Twenty-five states in India have already banned beef production. This is even before the BJP won majority at the Centre. The Directive Principles chapter in the Constitution aspires to ban cow slaughter across the country. It makes no sense to the modern Indians, especially to those who have travelled across the world. They have seen beef-eating as normal practice and done it themselves. The core membership is at odds with this generation.
Meat-eating, even beef-eating, is not illegal. Even if it was illegal, the punishment for eating meat or even beef cannot be death. Certainly not death meted out by a frenzied mob. One has to assume the mob in Dadri was frenzied rather than calm and calculating. There is not the slightest ground for excusing or rationalising what happened to Akhlaq.
Muslim lives have been precarious for a long time in India. There have been 11,000 communal riots since 1965.
Critics of the present government have forgotten the pogrom of Muslim men run by Sanjay Gandhi to forcibly sterilise them. It led to killings in Muzaffarnagar and at Turkman Gate in Delhi. They were again abandoned in the Muzaffarnagar riots by the Samajwadi Party two years ago. No political party has been a friend of Muslims. They need a national party of their own just like Kanshi Ram set up for Dalits. That alone will work.
The Finance Minister said correctly that these things are a distraction for the priorities the country has - to eradicate poverty, build a better India and secure its position at the top. The Prime Minister won the election on the idea of inclusive development. He should let the wilder elements in his party remember that if the party wishes to stay in power.
Meghnad Desai loves to cook, watch and write about old Bollywood movies and shuttles between London, Delhi and Goa. He pursues controversies on economics, history and anything else which catches his attention. He is also a British parliamentarian sitting in the House of Lords. The article first appeared in The Indian Express