Hindu guru blames Kerala floods on beef eaters
For Chakrapani Maharaj, aid must be given only to flood victims who forsake beef. Many Indian states ban beef, but in Kerala it is legal and eaten by Hindus as well. The state has seen great examples of inter-religious cooperation.
"Before giving any assistance, one should ask the victim whether they have ever eaten cow meat, and then in accordance with their answer, relief should be decided," he added in a statement on 23 August.
For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), “It is deeply wounding that at a time of great calamity, devastation and loss, sectarians are rearing their ugly head. Humanity takes a beating with such sentiments.”
In India, cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and many states ban raising, slaughtering and eating it. The simple suspicion of killing a cow can trigger violent reactions such as beatings, lynchings and killings.
In Kerala, however, eating beef is legal and beef is part of the menu of many families, including Hindus.
Yet, Chakrapani Maharaj claims that devastating floods did not occur "because of some untimely monsoon.” Instead, “Kerala was stuck by nature's fury because of the sins of beef eaters”.
For this reason, aid should be only dispensed to beef-eating flood victims who sign a legally binding pledge that they will refrain from eating beef for the rest of their lives.
Although “such divisive and sectarian words will not prevent recovery and relief work,” Hindu radicals will “sow hatred in the minds of a few, and this could destroy the social fabric of the community," said Sajan K George. Indeed, "Similar discrimination is not new to vulnerable Christian communities,” he added.
For example, “In Andhra Pradesh, Kadapa District, the village of Kesalingayapalle has been declared 'for Hindu only'. At its entrance it has a saffron-coloured* board. Any attempt by anybody from other religions to enter the village to campaign or preach their respective religions is strictly prohibited. If anybody violates this, strong action would be taken against them.”
Unlike the swami Maharaj’s contentious statement, people across India have expressed their solidarity towards Kerala. In the state itself, local fishermen have made their boats available to help displaced persons.
Catholic bishops praised the efforts of all those involved, overcoming religious, cultural and class-related obstacles. Caritas started a fundraiser and has sent its own rescue teams.
Muslims and Hindus have also pitched in, hosting Christians in mosques or preserving sacred images saved from heavy rains.
In India, "Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution,” noted Sajan K George. “No one can be converted by force or inducement.”
"According to the latest government census in 2011, Christians represent 2.3 per cent of the population. In ten years (2001-2011), the growth rate of the community dropped from 22.52 per cent to 15.5 per cent. This is the mystery of the cross."
* Saffron is the colour of Hindu nationalism.