Nov 05 2015 : The Times of India
I don't know if a citizen of free India has the right to discuss the Constitution. If she has, then i must express my disquiet with Article 48 of its Directive Principles, which directs the state to take steps for prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. I have only Mahatma Gandhi to support me.
As early as 1947 he said, “In India no law can be made to ban cow-slaughter ... How can my religion also be the religion of the rest of the Indians? It will mean coercion against those Indians who are not Hindus ... We really do not stop to think what true religion is and merely go about shouting that cow-slaughter should be banned by law. In villages Hindus make bullocks carry huge burdens which almost crush the animals. Is it not cow-slaughter, albeit slowly carried out? I shall therefore suggest that the matter should not be pressed in the Constituent Assembly .“
Article 48 also says that the state shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and take steps for preserving and improving the breeds of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. But no one talks about that. The directive to prohibit cow slaughter itself carries the qualifying words, milch and draught cattle.
That was perhaps the reason why in 1958 a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that cattle, except cows of all ages and calves of both cows and buffaloes, not capable of milch or draught can be slaughtered. The court classified such cattle as “useless“, keeping which alive would be a “wasteful drain“ on the nation's cattle feed. If slaughtered, they would feed the poor.
Four decades later, in 2005, the apex court reversed its stand upholding total ban on cattle slaughter, regardless of whether the bovine was useless or useful. Interestingly , among other things, the court said, “This is the land of Mahatma Gandhi, Vinobha, Mahaveer, Buddha, Nanak and others. We have to remember ... The weak and meek need more protection and compassion.“
Am I allowed to find it strange that Gandhi was invoked for something that he had expressly denied? May I humbly suggest that as the apex court has once overridden its judgment, it could perhaps do it again?
In the end i quote from an ordinary woman's letter to boost Gandhi's support for revoking the beef ban: “I have no award to give back, no talent to make a documentary or debate the issue on a TV channel ... I am a woman, a Hindu woman, who wants to teach her son ... that if you light a candle in a church, bow your head in a mosque, do seva in a gurdwara, you will not cease to be Hindu ... I will not eat beef but will not support a ban on it! But please don't mock my religious feeling by doing a beef party just to mock me ... If you want to return your award then return it and say that you'll accept it back only when beef ban is removed.“
The writer is a Sahitya Akademi award winning novelist.