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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 1 New Delhi December 26, 2015

Hindutva {Juggernaut on Roll: Beef-eaters to be out of Indian Nationhood

Saturday 26 December 2015, by Shamsul Islam


The Hindutva propounder, V.D. Savarkar, in his book, Hindutva (1923), and the prominent ideologue of the RSS, M.S. Golwalkar, in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined (1939), kept Indian Muslims and Christians out of Indian nationhood. According to their definitions, only Hindus could be part of the Indian nation (which was an exclusive Hindu nation) as they only had Aryan racial lineage, in their veins Hindu blood ran, they spoke the Sanskrit language, their ‘Fatherland’ (motherland conspicuously finds no mention) was India and their ‘Holylands’ were situated in India only. Muslims and Christians were out of it as they had none of the above characteristics and followed ‘foreign religions’. It is to be noted here that the ‘Indian’ religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were not treated as independent religions but part of Hinduism.

But recently this characterisation of the Indian nationhood has been revised by a senior swayamsevak of the RSS, Manohar Lal Khattar, who also happens to be the Chief Minister of Haryana State. As per his revised definition, a new condition was added apart from the above for Muslims and Christians to be included in it as Indian. In an interview to a prominent English daily of Delhi, he bluntly said: “Muslim rahein, magar is desh mein beef khaana chhodna hi hoga unko. Yahan ki manyata hai gau. (Muslims can continue to live in this country, but they will have to give up eating beef. The cow is an article of faith here.)1 It was sure that he was not singling out Muslims only when he said: “They can be Muslim even after they stop eating beef, can’t they? It is written nowhere that Muslims have to eat beef, not is it written anywhere in Christianity that they have to eat beef.”

Khattar’s attempt to communalise the debate over beef-eating in India is not some stray thought of some hyper-Hindutva cadre but part of a planned strategy to pit common Hindus against these two major minorities of India. The RSS and its leadership, while trying to whip up majoritarian frenzy, cares least for facts—even those facts which are part of Vedic history. A peep into it will show that beef consumption in India is not related to the arrival of Muslims or Christians in India. The RSS, which claims to be the greatest organisation of Hindus, must be familiar with the writings of Swami Vivekananda. This Hindutva icon, while addressing a meeting at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, USA (February 2, 1900) on the theme of ‘Buddhistic India’, declared: “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.”2

This is further corroborated by other research works sponsored by the Ramakrishna Mission established by Vivekananda. According to C. Kunhan Raja, a prominent authority on the history and culture of the Vedic period,

The Vedic Aryans, including the Brahmanas, ate fish, meat and even beef. A distinguished guest was honoured with beef served at a meal. Although the Vedic Aryans ate beef, milch cows were not killed. One of the words that designated cow was aghnya (what shall not be killed). But a guest was a goghna (one for whom a cow is killed). It is only bulls, barren cows and calves that were killed.3

The Hindutvavadis are fond of Manusmriti and want to promulgate it as the Constitution of India replacing the current democratic-secular Constitution of the country. Savarkar described it as most worshippable after the Vedas. Its chapter V provides details of different kinds of flesh of animals to be consumed. The Verse 30 reads: “It is not sinful to eat meat of eatable animals, for Brahma has created both the eaters and the eatables” and the Verse also says:”When a man, who is properly engaged in a ritual does not eat meat, after his death he will become a sacrificial animal during twenty-one rebirths.” Nowhere it bars consumption of beef.

One of the greatest researchers on Hinduism, Dr B.R. Ambedkar produced a brilliant scholarly essay on the subject titled ‘Did The Hindus Never Eat Beef?’4 It is a must read for all those who are interested in understanding the Indian past and wish to challenge the supremacist myth-making by the Hindutva gang for cleansing and marginalising the minorities. He quoted hundreds of ancient Hindu scriptures to show that beef-eating was rampant in ancient India or Vedic India. His conclusion was “that the Aryans of the Rig Veda did kill cows for purposes of food and ate beef is abundantly clear from the Rig Veda itself. In Rig Veda (X. 86.14) Indra says: ‘They cook for one 15 plus twenty oxen.’ The Rig Veda (X.91.14) says that for Agni were sacrificed horses, bulls, oxen, barren cows and rams. From the Rig Veda (X.72.6) it appears that the cow was killed with a sword or axe.”5

Khattar’s statement not only shows his ignorance about the Indian past which he claims as Hindu past (despite the fact that no ancient religious scripture carries this nomenclature) but also about the present India. In the whole of North-East India, which includes seven States, and in States like Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Bengal beef is legally available. Moreover in States like Assam, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar and AP, bulls and bullocks can be slaughtered for consumption after securing the ‘fit-for-slaughter’ certificate. Here these are not Muslims and Christians who consume beef. It is consumed by people of all denominations including a large number of Dalits.

This hype on beef and selective targeting of Muslims and Christians on this issue is part of a larger plan by the swayamsevak rulers of the country. These Hindutva rulers have miserably failed Indians, 80 per cent of whom are Hindus. The farmers’ suicides in droves are not confined to Maharashtra or AP only. These are taking place throughout the country, even in States like Punjab. The poor Indians’ cuisine ‘dal’ or lentil is selling above Rs 200 kg, the prices of staple vegetables like potato and onion have already gone beyond the reach of common Indians. Violence against the Dalits is galloping, jobs are being lost fast, agriculture is facing the worst crisis in history, the rupee has touched the lowest point, in fact, the ‘achche din’ promised by the BJP/RSS leaders never began. The rulers can only survive by heightening the politics of polarisation. As cunning leaders, they know how to divide and rule and they want to divert the attention by pitting the majority against the minorities. History is witness to the fact that such gimmicks work for a limited period as the common people do not take long to understand the game.

Apart from Khattar’s beef-eating comment that Muslims and Christians, if they want to keep their membership of the Indian nation, have to stop eating beef, another gem of his interview has skipped attention. About the mythical river Sarswati he said: “No, we will not discover the river in its original form in which it used to exist. But at least in a symbolic way, even if we have to create it artificially, it can maintain our social faith. We will dig and if we manage to flow some water into it, it can be seen as a pilgrimage site by the people.” So the agenda is very clear, they will manufacture a river after manufacturing history. One wishes that the huge amount to be spent on this project is diverted to the areas where the poor and hapless farmers are committing suicides in hundreds.

Lastly, Khattar must know that beef-eating was never religiously ordained by Islam and Christianity but, as Swami Vivekananda said, it was a religious ceremonial in ancient India. In fact, by linking non-beef eating to being Indian, Khattar is simply declaring his Aryan ancestors as non-Indians!



2. Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Viveka-nanda, Vol. 3 (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1997), p. 536.

3. C. Kunhan Raja, ‘Vedic Culture’, cited in the series, Suniti Kumar Chatterji and others (eds.), The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. 1 (Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission, 1993), p. 217.


5. Ibid.

Shamsul Islam, a well-known theatre personality, is a former Associate Professor (now retired), Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi. For some of the author’s writings in English, Hindi, Urdu and Gujarati see the following link:

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