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Attempts to Implement a Beef Ban in India Will Backfire Badly

May 30, 2017 6 comments

A few of you might have heard about recent attempts by the right-wing-ish ruling party in India to implement a ban of people eating beef through a number of laws and rules. While I seldom write posts about events in India, especially nowadays, this attempt to implement a beef ban in India is very likely to generate a particularly nasty and systemic backlash against that party.

First, a bit of background. See.. many of you think Indians don’t consume Beef and worship Cows etc. However that is not true, especially in certain parts of India. Most Muslims in India, which has the second largest Muslim population in the world, eat Beef. Perhaps more importantly, non-Muslims in certain parts of India such as the North-east, Kerala, Goa and much of the west coast of India, large Metropolitan areas do eat Beef- even if they might not cook it in their homes.

Furthermore, the livelihood of many hundreds of thousands of people in India is linked to butchering and processing cattle for meat, leather etc. More problematically, many of those people belong to certain religions, castes and ethnicities- the reasons for which will become clearer later in the post. Then there is the problem of collateral antagonism from such actions. Anyway, I think it is best to list all the reasons why this Beef ban has an extremely high likelihood of backfiring on the ruling party.

1] Imposing your dietary beliefs, especially if they are based in religion, onto other people is likely to generate an especially harsh backlash. Have you ever wondered why previous national governments in India never seriously tried to ban butchering cattle? Here is a hint- they wanted to rule, and steal from the people, in relative peace. The simple fact is that India is not (and never was) a mono-religious or mono-ethnic country. Functional governance of such a diverse country requires the accommodation of populations with conflicting beliefs aka being pragmatic.

2] Most people who profess Hinduism in India are not especially religious. I would go so far as to say that making money is (and always has been) the real religion of India. Consequently, most Hindus do not see butchering cattle as inherently problematic, as long as they are not the ones doing it. It is no secret that most dairy farmers in India love the money made from selling older cattle to slaughterhouses for meat. Let us be realistic, why would dairy farmers keep on feeding livestock cattle who no longer serve their main function?

3] Butchering and handling dead animals has, for some fucked up religious reasons, been traditionally seen as lower-caste professions in India. Then again, jobs which involve honest and useful work are usually seen as low-caste in Hinduism. The end result of this belief system is that those involved in the whole business of butchering and processing animals are from the so-called “untouchable” castes or Muslims. Did I mention that those belonging to those castes and religions have no interest in being good Hindus? Also they do vote, in very high percentages.

4] The ruling party trying to push the Beef ban, known as the BJP, has historically been seen as the party of reactionary small businessmen from certain castes. In other words, most people in India have a less than favorable opinion of that party. The two main reasons why the BJP came into power in mid-2014 was the collapse of the previous ruling party and the current prime minister being able to project the image of being a competent and fairly secular manager. In other words, the ability of BJP to win any future elections depends on it being able to provide secular, as opposed to religious, goods and services.

5] The current prime minister (Narendra Modi) and his underlings have, so far, been able to provide competent and relatively scandal-free governance. They have been able to approve and speed up many important infrastructure projects, reform government rules and regulations, improve government transparency etc. To put it another way, the first three years of their five-year term have been reasonably good. However over the last three months, they have started dabbling into areas that are not linked to providing secular goods and services.

6] Some of their dabbling into non-secular areas, such as trying to make muslim divorce laws fairer towards women, have been generally well received. However that particular (and still ongoing attempt) at such intervention is largely seen as beneficial in secular terms. In contrast to that, immiserating and impoverishing millions of people via a Beef ban is likely to some up against very determined and prolonged opposition. Also, unlike attempts to reform muslim personal law, such laws will be perceived as religious discrimination.

7] While most muslims in India are fairly moderate and not that religious, it is likely that laws which discriminate against and impoverish them will lead to prolonged civil agitation- to put it mildly. At this stage it is also worth mentioning that many of the so-called “untouchable” castes, who are also involved in the business of processing animals, will likely see this as an attack on their identity and livelihood by a party made up of middle-caste small businessmen Hindus. It is not a good idea to piss off and motivate 20-25% of your population against yourself, especially if the reason for doing so are minor.

8] The popularity of Narendra Modi in India is largely linked to his ability to, so far, efficiently deliver secular goods and services. His administration has also, so far, been able to avoid major civil disturbances and breakdown of governance in most of India. In other words, the popularity of him (and the BJP party) are contingent on providing increasing prosperity AND security. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that any legislation which would create prolonged civil disturbances would not be helpful for improving public perception about internal safety and security.

9] But perhaps most importantly, most Hindus (especially in the more affluent parts of India) have little interest in inconveniencing themselves over something trivial as butchering cattle. Also certain states in India have enough people who consume Beef or depend on cattle butchering as a livelihood for such legislation to make implementation of such legislation very problematic- to put it mildly. Furthermore, the majority of Indians have (for very good reasons) a pretty unfavorable view of government rules and regulations. My point is that trying to push such laws and rules will encounter much more determined resistance than support.

In summary, this attempt by the BJP to target muslims and certain so-called “untouchable” castes is a remarkably stupid idea- especially from the point of maintaining political power. The best case scenario is that they will soon read the writing on the proverbial wall and cut their losses. The worse case scenario is that they end up creating conditions for prolonged civil disturbances in addition to losing power in 2019. Either way, the BJP fucked up with their attempt at banning Beef.

What do you think? Comments?