Ranchi (AsiaNews) – Pramod Mishra, head of the Hindu ultranationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in the Indian state of Jharkhand, has threatened retaliation if the local government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not permanently ban beef sale and trade.
The VHP leader spoke a few days after sectarian clashes broke out following the discovery of a piece of cow in a Hindu temple in Doranda, a district in the state capital. Two people were wounded by gunshots during the incident.
According to Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the anti-beef ban is aimed at minorities, especially Christians, who have been targeted in the recent past for other reasons.
Cows are a manifestation of the divine in Hinduism. Killing or eating its flesh is deemed sinful. People from the Brahmin caste avoid either. Only Dalits (outcastes), who are considered impure and “untouchables”, can touch the animal, eat its meat and work the leather.
"We demand a ban throughout the state,” Mishra said on Sunday. “Cow slaughter was banned in 2005. The current Chief Minister Raghubar Das was a state minister at the time. Now he is doing nothing to enforce the law."
If that does not work, the ultranationalist leader said, "We shall write to the President of India, the prime minister, the governor, and all other authorities until local authorities strictly enforce the law that bans cow slaughter. We want a special court to try people involved in cattle trade.”
For Sajan K George, “Banning beef in BJP ruled states is an ominous sign of growing intolerance and communal division.” Speaking to AsiaNews, he noted, “Since the BJP’s landmark victory under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the aspirations and actions by Hindu majority groups and organisations that support the idea of a Hindu state have gained prominence.”
Recently, the state of Maharashtra, which is also run by a BJP administration, banned the sale of beef. Although cows are sacred for Hindus, minority Christians and Muslims traditionally eat beef. Thus, a beef ban would heavily affect their diet.
Some small Pentecostals communities in Lupungi Masasai, Jagnathpur and Chaibasa (Jharkhand) learnt that the hard way. After they were attacked, George said, four tribal Christian families were summoned by the village council and threatened with expulsion from the community unless they repudiate their Christian faith. If they refused, they would lose their tribal certificates. The same occurred to 30 Christian families in other nearby villages.
Meanwhile, anti-Christian violence continues elsewhere in the state. The GCIC president reported that 15 Hindu extremists, wielding sticks and billy clubs attacked a group of 35 Christians, who had gathered to pray in Hutugdag, a village in Palamu District. Four Christians were seriously wounded.
“The beef ban is specifically aimed at minorities,” George explained. If implemented, “many of their members would be deprived of their livelihood as well as staple food.” Instead, “respect for others is fundamental in a pluralistic democracy.”