Six weeks after the CSFH report — Lying Religiously (LyR) — was published with conclusive evidence that the National HSC was part of the RSS family of organizations (Sangh Parivar), the National HSC has failed to refute even a single piece of evidence in our report. Far from providing any substantive counter evidence or argument, officers of the National HSC have resorted to ad-hominems against the CSFH collective.
This strategy is not new. It is typical of the Sangh Parivar. The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate has done investigative work on the Sangh since 2002. In our first report, The Foreign Exchange of Hate, which exposed the flow of dollars from the US to the RSS in India, we used a similar structure of evidence as the current report on the HSCs — a majority of the evidentiary documents were drawn from the Sangh itself. In response, the Sangh Parivar attacked the collective and NOT the report, just like the National HSC leadership has done now. Our response from 2003, entitled Deceit as a Core Value: The RSS Method, is archived here. We urge all HSC members and the Indian-American community at large to take careful note of this pattern — when completely unable to deal with the evidence against it, the Sangh resorts to ad-hominem attacks against its opponents.
In our two earlier press releases, we pulled out evidence from our report and framed it in a simple and easy to understand format and challenged the national HSC to refute the evidence. They have failed to do so in both their press releases. Do we take the national HSC’s silence on the issue as its inability to deny its close links with the Sangh Parivar?
In our effort to keep the focus on the substantive evidence presented in the LyR report, CSFH will in the next 12 weeks send out one question every week to the national HSC leadership with a single issue or piece of evidence for them to respond to. Our reason for this is simple: we want to make absolutely clear to every reader –- and especially, every HSC member past and present — that the National HSC has been deceptive about its connections with the RSS family and its only strategy is to distract from the evidence presented in the report.
Week #1: Why did the National HSC build the Sangh Parivar’s Global Internet infrastructure and why does it continue to maintain it?
In our report, we have documented how the National HSC has built and continues to maintain the Sangh’s Global Internet infrastructure. The evidentiary source for the IP Map is a neutral site, DomainTools. The IP Map is probably the most damning piece of evidence against the National HSC that establishes deep, systematic and undeniable links to the rest of the Sangh Parivar. It is not an incidental set of connections, but a deliberate and carefully built infrastructure. The National HSC has of course remained silent on this. However, some concerned HSC chapter members have written to us directly asking questions. The most often repeated question is whether the IP map shows anything more than some electronic links, and this needs further explanation.
Allow us to explain in some detail: Every machine on the Internet has a unique IP address that reads something like: 220.127.116.11, that is, four numbers separated by periods. Each set of numbers in an IP address that is separated by periods is called an octet (because it is represented in the binary form by a set of eight zeros and ones). Thus an IP address is made up of four octets. For brevity, we will represent an IP address as A.B.C.D where A,B,C and D represent numerical values and are each an octet. How the octet pattern is arranged says a lot about the organization that is using an IP address. For instance, a large network like AT& T will typically have an octet structure where every single machine that it owns on the internet will share the exact same value in the first octet. That is, all of AT&T’s computers on the internet share the same first octet. Such addresses with a common first octet are called Class A addresses.
So also, a large to medium size business could ask for a Class B address where the first two octets (in our scheme, A and B of the A.B.C.D structure) are common for every machine it has on the internet anywhere in the world. Many MNCs have Class B addresses. Finally, smaller organizations could seek and be allotted a Class C address where the first three octets – A, B and C are fixed. Every machine they have on the internet will then have the first three octets repeated and the last octet will change. This is the case for most of the Sangh Parivar organizations hosted by the HSC — they share the first three octets and have CONTIGUOUS fourth octet (as in, say 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124). Furthermore, most of these websites, including those of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (126.96.36.199), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (188.8.131.52), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (184.108.40.206), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (220.127.116.11), India Development and Relief Fund (18.104.22.168), Sewa International (22.214.171.124), Organiser (126.96.36.199) and Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad (188.8.131.52) list Hindunet Inc as the Admin Organization and/or Ajay Shah (the first president of the HSC) as the Admin Name. And the copyright notice on Hindunet says: Please note that entire collection of GHEN websites is copyrighted 1989-1999, Global Hindu Electronic Networks, Hindu Students Council.
In short, the HSC supports the electronic infrastructure of the Sangh Parivar. There is no way for all this to be an accident or a coincidence. In other words, there is no other explanation for this phenomenon but the fact that the national HSC, under the leadership of Ajay Shah, was given this task by the Sangh which they executed faithfully. (For a brief organizational overview of the Sangh Parivar, see here).
CSFH continues to urge all concerned individuals and groups to engage in a substantive public discussion on the issues we have raised in our LyR report. Such open discussions are important within the South Asian community, especially among Indian-American youth, who have been deceived by the National HSC leadership. It is incumbent upon all HSC chapters to begin sorting out the truth from the lies by asking the National HSC leadership to respond to the concrete challenge we have raised above and not produce random distractions.
Organized Religion is like Organized Crime; it preys on peoples’ weakness, generates huge profits for its operators, and is almost impossible to eradicate — Mike Hermann
Earlier this month, CNN-IBN came out with spectacular exposes on money laundering by Hindu godmen. The culprits included Ram Vilas Vedanti (or more respectfully, Vedanti Maharaj), Guruvayur Surya Nambudiri and Kapil Advait (alias Pilot Baba)
- Vedanti is a former chairman of the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust, a former BJP MP, and a star campaigner for the BJP in the recent elections in Uttar Pradesh (where it suffered a humiliating defeat).
- Surya Nambudiri (also spelled Namboodiri) is apparently famous for making prophecies — what’s a godman without the power to prophecy — and after a tough bargain, agrees to turn 100 million of black money into white money for a 15% commission. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t foretell his own future.
- Kapil Advait is a former wing commander-turned-godman, engaged in money laundering for commissions ranging from 20% to 50%.
As expected, the Sangh Parivar jumped to the godmen’s defense. The BJP spokesperson said:
The names that your channel has discussed are all respectable people. I am not sure how authentic this sting operation is.
And the VHP Vice-President Giriraj Kishore said:
What is the purpose behind a sting operation? And why are Hindus always maligned?
Confused? Here’s the train of thought: VHP (and the Sangh Parivar) represents all Hindus, the exposed godmen are sympathetic to the Sangh Parivar, so an expose of their fraudulent activities is equivalent to maligning all Hindus. Besides, as Swami Nirliptananda, Secretary of the London Sevashram Sangha and a member of the Hindu Forum of Britain’s Spiritual Body Commission, recently observed:
Even among human beings, saintly people occupy a different status from others.
According to former income tax commissioner Vishwabandhu Gupta:
[This is] a fit case for criminal proceedings. Two of the biggest religion mafias are the Ram Janmanbhoomi Nyas and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad amongst the Hindus. They have 10 bogus trusts floated from the same address. The names are there (in our record) and so are the addresses. They are getting money from 50 countries abroad and are also getting tax exemptions. There are no accounts as well. You see, this is a big menace. We have calculated and found that religious leaders annually earn $3 billion which is about Rs 10,000 crore -Rs 15,000 crore worth of money. What they do is they get land at throwaway prices. During the last government, 11 including that Sadhvi Ritambhara – whatever her qualifications are – got a fantastic (sic) piece of land at a throwaway price for the services that she heads today. There have fraudulent names, addresses, existences and expenditures. They use it for spreading communal hatred. Money has been used by Bajrang Dal cadres in Gujarat to purchase Motorola, we have got receipts for that.
For instance, the RSS does not have FCRA clearance and cannot directly accept foreign donations, so has created service wings like the Sewa International and Sewa Bharati which have FCRA clearance. The RSS’s fundraising fronts abroad — IDRF, SewaUSA, VHP of America, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Sewa International UK, Hindu Forum of Britain etc. — divert funds to the RSS through Sewa Bharati and Sewa International. Given the Sangh Parivar’s access to state power and propensity to violence, its brand of fundamentalism poses the biggest danger to a pluralistic India, but the role of Christian fundamentalist groups like World Vision (which apparently disbursed 95 crores in India last year) cannot be glossed over either.
[A letter from Pantul Kothari, with minor edits]
We write this letter to request you to sign a petition to the Governor of Gujarat condemning the recent events at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. A group of people with affiliations to Hindu supremacist groups barged into the Fine Arts campus, disrupted the examination and abused and threatened students and faculty members. A student was arrested for offending religious sentiments, and the Dean of the Faculty was suspended. Such attempts to stifle by force the rights to free speech and expression of individuals, and to impose on society in general the narrow perceptions of certain sections regarding what is permissible and what is not, constitute a serious threat to political, intellectual, and artistic freedoms in India. These attacks are especially worrisome since it points to a nexus between members of the Hindu nationalist BJP, who carried out the attack, the police, and the top levels of the University administration including its Vice Chancellor Manoj Soni.
The petition is available at www.petitiononline.com/MSUAUTO/
The details of the incident are as follows. On 9th May 2007, students of the Fine Arts Faculty had put up their installations around the Faculty campus as part of their annual internal examination/display. The Fine Arts Faculty is one of the best-known institutions within the M. S. University. The Faculty has also nurtured many renowned artists and it is here that the famous Baroda School of Art developed.
That afternoon, Vadodara-based BJP leader Niraj Jain (accused for the 2002 Gujarat carnage by the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat), stormed into the Faculty premises, accompanied by local police and some accomplices. They manhandled Chandramohan, a final year MA student (and recipient of the Gujarat Lalit Kala Academy Award, 2005-06) who had put up some graphic prints. They accused him of offending their religious sentiments, saying that he had portrayed the goddess Durga in an obscene way. Dr. Shivji Panikkar, the Dean in charge, was also threatened with dire consequences by Niraj Jain and his cohorts.
Subsequently, Chandramohan was arrested and charged under sections 153A, 114, and 295 of the Indian Penal Code for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc, committing acts prejudicial to the harmony of the public. His examination works, which had been put up only for the sole purpose of the final examination, were apparently offensive to public religious sentiments. Since no citizen can be charged with Section 153 without the sanction of the State or Central government, and since in this case no sanction was sought, this was in effect an illegal detention. The police also refused to register a complaint against Niraj Jain when students, teachers and other organizations like PUCL approached them. On May 10, at Chandramohan’s bail hearing, alongwith the VHP and BJP crowds, at least 40 priests from the Methodist Church had also joined the cacophony of voices against Chandra Mohan.
In the meantime, the University authorities not only refused to support the students and the staff but insisted that Professor Shivaji Panikkar, Dean in charge of the Faculty (as well as author and editor of Saptamatrka Worship and Sculptures, 1997; Twentieth-Century Indian Sculpture, 2002; Towards a New Art History: Studies in Indian Art, 2003 among others), apologize to the BJP.
On the next day, May 11, the students and staff, denied any other form of protest, put up an exhibition focusing on the long history of erotic imagery in both Indian and Western art. In response, the Deputy Registrar issued a verbal request, followed by a written order, that the exhibition be closed down. Dr. Panikkar refused to comply as it was a decision by the students and this was their way of lodging a peaceful protest. Later in the day, the Pro Vice Chancellor, along with some members of the Syndicate arrived at the Faculty and locked up the exhibition. The same night, at 10 p.m. a suspension order was pasted on the door of Dr. Panikkar’s residence. He has been suspended for three months, not only from Deanship, but also as the Head of the Art History Department. No reasons were given for the suspension.
Chandra Mohan was released on 14th May 2007. The suspension order against Dr. Panikkar continues, and fearing attacks and arrest, he has been forced to go underground.
Over the last few days, art historians, critics, activists, artists and art lovers have launched a nation-wide protest against the Gujarat government’s latest act of fascism. On 14th May 2007, over 1000 artists from all over the country gathered at the Faculty to protest against the suspension of the Dean, the role of the University authorities, the police, Niraj Jain and the political forces he represents. Despite intimidation and abuse from some Hindu supremacist activists, the meeting conducted its protest successfully. That apart, artists in other cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Guwahati also held protest meetings. The battle is being fought on many levels — emails, blogs, protest meetings, legal proceedings, petitions, press releases, and signature campaigns.
We urge you to go through this petition, sign it, and also forward this email widely. In addition, you could also send letters of protest to some of the officials whose names and addresses are provided at the end of this letter.
For Association of Academics and Citizens for University Autonomy
Officials to whom letters of protest could be sent:
- The President of India
Office of the President
152 South Block Delhi
New Delhi, India
- Prime Minister
Dr. Manmoham Singh
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi, India 110011
Tel: 011 91 11 2301 2312
Fax: 011 91 11 2301 9545
Write to PM at http://pmindia.nic.in/write.htm
- Manoj Soni
Vice Chancellor, M. S. University
- People’s Union for Civil Liberties
C/o, Shishu Milap, 1, Shrihari Apartments,
Behind Express Hotel, Vadodara 390 007, Gujarat
Phone: Chinu Srinivasan 91-265-2342539, Rohit Prajapati +91-265-2320399
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Rohit Prajapati & Trupti Shah
37, Patrakar Colony, Tandalja Road,
Post-Akota, Vadodara – 390 020
Phone No. + 91-265-2320399
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
While DN Jha marshals an impressive body of evidence to expose the alleged historical sanctity of the cow as a myth, he doesn’t trace the history of the cow’s rise to sanctity. Cow protection was en emotive issue during the Indian freedom struggle, and was part of the larger project of arresting and reversing the secular-political movement of the lower classes. Here are some excerpts from Braj Ranjan Mani’s book, Debrahmanising History:
Awash with religious symbolism, [Gandhian] nationalism was sharply opposed to the mass struggle for social and material change; whatever changes had to be effected had to come from above. The net result, of the real nature and impact of Gandhian nationalism, as Aloysius has shown, was to deflect the course of political awakening from the hard world of the economic and political to that of the nebulous and mysterious.
In short, the Gandhian synthesis meant little more than religion for the lower caste masses and politics for the upper caste nationalists, which in essence degraded both religion and politics.
Gandhi’s first major agitation against the British – Non-cooperation movement – was a case in point. Based on Khilafat, cow protection and anti-untouchability, it was not directed only against the British but also aimed at arresting and reversing the secular-political movement of the lower classes. Gandhi gave the mass of Hindu workers and peasants who aspired for material change, the issues of cow-protection and anti-untouchability, while his prescription for the Muslim masses who, like the Hindu lower classes, were agitating for education, social betterment, diversification of occupations, and such issues, was Khilafat (to restore the Caliphate in Turkey as the global Islamic head a la the Pope, when the Arabs and Turks had themselves turned their back on the Caliphate issue in favour of modern political establishment). The Khilafat, however, met the political aspirations of the Muslim elite who were looking for a separate constituency.
The elite segments of both Hindu and Muslim communities grabbed the opportunity that Gandhi provided them to reassert their leadership on religious lines, as it greatly helped them thwart the egalitarian aspirations of the common people. It was more than evident that the vested interests of both communities dreaded the socio-economic restructuring that secular politics would necessarily entail. The politics of religion, on the other hand, gave them the unique opportunity to conjure up an external threat — the Hindu threat to Muslims and the Muslim threat to Hindus — to divert attention from public pressure for socio-economic changes.
[As Nehru observed in his autobiography] it is nevertheless extraordinary how the bourgeois classes, both among the Hindus and the Muslims, succeeded, in the sacred name of religion, in getting a measure of mass sympathy and support for programmes and demands which had absolutely nothing to do with the masses, or even the lower middle class.
Little seems to have changed in the intervening decades, for we’re still in the grip of the politics of religion. As with the Ram temple movement, albeit to a smaller extent, the Sangh Parivar has sought to use cow-protection as a wedge issue to isolate and belittle the beef-eating Muslim monolith. For instance, a recent VCD released by the BJP just before the UP elections featured two beef-eating Muslims conniving to dispossess an I-love-my-cow-like-my-mother Hindu of his cow and slaughtering it. [According to Siddharth Varadarajan, the CD had a 50 second long graphic footage of a buffalo being slaughtered, including of the blood pouring out from its throat. Very interesting logic; to inflame anti-Muslim passions, the life of a buffalo is worth the price!]
Over the years, several of the Sangh’s pet peeves have found expression in the pages of the Organiser under the pretext of cow-protection. Sample these:
- According to this writer, the Congress’ hidden agenda of establishing Muslim hegemony throughout the Indian sub-continent is revealed in this letter by Nehru: You know how strong an advocate of cow protection Bapu is. Nevertheless, so far as I am aware, he is opposed to any compulsory stoppage of cow slaughter. His chief reason, I believe, is that we must not function as a Hindu State; but as a composite State in which Hindus, no doubt, predominate.
- According to this myth-maker, Nehru opposed the ban on cow-slaughter because: If the cow slaughter is banned, Muslims and others who eat beef will be provoked. Therefore, a ban on cow slaughter is not proper.
- This writer praises Muslims in Varanasi who joined hands with the Hindus to prevent the slaughter of cows and thanks them for doing their duty as true citizens of India. Another swayamsevak wonders whether any Muslims (sic) worth his blood will come forward like Rahmatullah [a cow-loving Muslim exemplar] to oppose cow slaughter. Yet another one avers that even Islam is against cow-slaughter, and that educated Muslims are aware beef is harmful for health as it causes various diseases, so avoid it. He also approvingly quotes the Shahi Imam of Fatehpuri mosque who argues against beef-eating since we [Muslims] need to maintain cordial relations with the communities with whom we have to live.
- This imaginative swayamsevak claims that honouring the Hindu sentiments, the then Muslim leadership (that participated in the 1857 war of independence) agreed on matters like ban on cow-slaughter, death penalty to the slaughterers of cows. And this pseudo-historian claims that both Christians and Muslims in the Hindu kingdoms of Kerala were culturally assimilated with the local traditions and social customs … even abstaining from cow-slaughter and beef-eating. … However, the entry of European colonial Christianity and the murderous Muslim armies from Mysore led by Hyder Ali and his fanatical son Tipu Sultan into Kerala … resulted in the degeneration of the mindsets and social outlook of the local Christian and Muslim communities. The writer then goes on to rant on the universality of Hinduism as opposed to narrowness of Islam and Christianity.
As recently as last week, the Karnataka Chief Minister (who is in power thanks to the BJP’s backing) participated in a Grand cow protection meet where Top Hindu leaders called for a ban on cow slaughter. I could go on and on, but you probably get the point by now. In short, the Sangh’s PR machine would want us to believe that:
- Hindus are a monolithic community, all of whom oppose cow-slaughter.
- The absence of a constitutional ban on cow slaughter in India is indicative of the Muslim hegemony in India (which itself is a consequence of the Muslim propensity to violence and Hindu docility).
- The prevalence of cow-slaughter and beef-eating in India is a consequence of the degradation induced by hostile Muslim and Christian invasions.
- Good Muslims understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority, and act accordingly.
The Sangh makes a lot of noise about the many uses of the cow (several of which are true), but what’s left unsaid is its most significant use — the ease with which it lends itself to Muslim-baiting. This, more than anything else, explains the Sangh’s love for the cow.
Resume: The Elusive Holy Cow
(concluding chapter of DN Jha’s The Myth of the Holy Cow)
Several points emerge from our limited survey of the textual evidence, mostly drawn from Brahmanical sources drawn from the Rgveda onwards. In the first place, it is clear that the early Aryans, who migrated to India from outside, brought along with them certain cultural elements. After their migration into the Indian subcontinent pastoralism, nomadism and animal sacrifice remained characteristic features of their lives for several centuries until sedentary field agriculture became the mainstay of their livelihood. Animal sacrifices were very common, the most important of them being the famous asvamedha and rajasuya. These and several other major sacrifices involved the killing of animals including cattle, which constituted the chief form of the wealth of the early Aryans. Not surprisingly, they prayed for cattle and sacrificed them to propitiate their gods. The Vedic gods had no marked dietary preferences. Milk, butter, barley, oxen, goats and sheep were their usual food, though some of them seem to have had their special preferences. Indra had a special liking for bulls. Agni was not a tippler like Indra, but was fond of the flesh of horses, bulls and cows. The toothless Pusan, the guardian of the roads, ate mush as a Hobson’s choice. Soma was the name of an intoxicant but, equally important, of a god, and killing animals (including cattle) for him was basic to most of the Rgvedic yajnas. The Maruts and the asvins were also offered cows. The Vedas mention about 250 animals out of which at least 50 were deemed fit for sacrifice, by implication for divine as well as human consumption. The Taittiriya Brahmana categorically tells us: Verily the cow is food (atho annam vai gauh) and Yajnavalkya‘s insistence on eating the tender (amsala) flesh of the cow is well known. Although there is reason to believe that a brahmana’s cow may not have been killed, that is no index of its inherent sanctity in the Vedic period or even later.
The subsequent Brahmanical texts (e.g. Grhyasutras and Dharmasutras) provide ample evidence of the eating of flesh including beef. Domestic rites and rituals associated with agricultural and other activities involved the killing of cattle. The ceremonial welcome of guests (sometimes known as arghya but generally as madhuparka) consisted not only of a meal of a mixture of curds and honey but also of the flesh of a cow or bull. Early lawgivers go to the extent of making meat mandatory in the madhuparka — an injunction more or less dittoed by several later legal texts. The sacred thread ceremony for its part was not all that sacred; for it was necessary for a snataka to wear an upper garment of cowhide.
The slaughter of animals formed an important component of the cult of the dead in the Vedic texts. The thick fat of the cow was used to cover the corpse and a bull was burnt along with it to enable the departed to ride in the nether world. Funerary rites include the feeding of brahmanas after the prescribed period and quite often the flesh of the cow or ox was offered to the dead. The textual prescriptions indicate the degree of satisfaction obtained by the ancestors’ souls according to the animal offered — cow meat could keep them content for at least a year! The Vedic and the post-Vedic texts often mention the killing of animals including the kine in the ritual context. There was, therefore, a relationship between the sacrifice and sustenance. But this does not necessarily mean that different types of meat were eaten only if offered in sacrifice. Archaeological evidence, in fact, suggests non-ritual killing of cattle. This is indicative of the fact that beef and other animal flesh formed part of the dietary culture of people and that edible flesh was not always ritually consecrated.
The idea of ahimsa seems to have made its first appearance in the Upanisadic thought and literature. There is no doubt that Gautama Buddha and Mahavira vehemently challenged the efficacy of the Vedic animal sacrifice, although a general aversion to beef and other kinds of animal flesh is not borne out by Buddhist and Jaina texts. Despite the fact that the Buddha espoused the cause of ahimsa, he is said to have died after eating a meal of pork (sukaramaddava). Asoka’s compassion for animals is undeniable, though cattle were killed for food during the Mauryan period as is evident from the Arthasastra of Kautilya and Asoka’s own list of animals exempt from slaughter, which, significantly, does not include the cow. The Buddhists in India and outside continued to eat various types of meat including beef even in later times, often inviting unsavoury criticism from the Jainas. In Lahul, for example, Buddhists eat beef, albeit secretly, and in Tibet they eat cows, sheep, pigs and yak.
Like Buddhism, Jainism also questioned the efficacy of animal sacrifice and enthusiastically took up the cause of non-violence. But meat eating was so common in Vedic and post-Vedic times that even Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, is said to have eaten poultry. Perhaps the early Jainas were no strict vegetarians. A great Jaina logician of the eighth century tells us that monks did not have objection to eating flesh or fish given to them by the laity. In spite of all this, there is no doubt that meat became a strong taboo among the followers of Jainism. Its canonical and non-canonical literature provides overwhelming evidence on the subject. The inflexibility of the Jaina attitude is deeply rooted in the basic tenets of Jaina philosophy, which, at least in theory, is impartial in its respect for all forms of life without according any special status to the cow. Thus, although both Buddhism, and, to a greater extent, Jainism contributed to the growth of ahimsa doctrine, neither seems to have developed the sacred cow concept independently.
Despite the Upanisadic, Buddhist and Jaina advocacy of ahimsa, the practice of ritual and random killing of animals including cattle continued in the post-Mauryan centuries. Although Manu (200 BC-AD 200) extols the virtue of ahimsa, he provides a list of creatures whose flesh was edible. He exempts the camel from being killed for food, but does not grant this privilege to the cow. On the contrary, he opines that animal slaughter in accordance with Vedic practice does not amount to killing, thus giving sanction to the ritual slaughter off cattle. He further recommends meat eating on occasions like madhuparka and sraddha. One may not be far from the truth if one interprets Manu’s injunctions as a justification for ritual cattle slaughter and beef eating, as indeed a later commentator does.
Next in point of time is the law book of Yajnavalkya (AD 100-300) who not only enumerates the kosher animals and fish but also states that a learned brahmana (srotriya) should be welcomed with a big ox or goat, delicious food and sweet words. That the practice of flesh eating and killing cattle for food was customary right through the Gupta period and later is sufficiently borne out by references to it found in the Puranas and the Epics. Several Puranic texts, we are told, bear testimony to the feeding of brahmanas with beef at the funeral ceremony, though some of them prohibit the killing of a cow in honour of the guest and others recommend buffalo sacrifice for the goddess at Durga Puja, Navaratri, or Dasara.
The evidence from the epics is quite eloquent. Most of the characters in the Mahabharata are meat eaters. Draupadi promises to Jayadratha and his retinue that Yudhisthira would provide them with a variety of game including gayal, sambara and buffalo. The Pandavas seem to have survived on meat during their exile. The Mahabharata also makes a laudatory reference to the king Rantideva in whose kitchen two thousand cows were butchered each day, their flesh, along with grain, being distributed among the brahmanas. Similarly the Ramayana of Valmiki makes frequent references to the killing of animals including the cow for sacrifice and for food. Rama was born after his father Dasaratha performed a big sacrifice involving the slaughter of a large number of animals declared edible by the Dharmasastras. Sita, assures the Yamuna, while crossing it that she would worship the river with a thousand cows and a hundred jars of wine when Rama accomplishes his vow. Her fondness for deer meat drives her husband crazy enough to kill Marica, a deer in disguise. Bharadvaja welcomes Rama by slaughtering a fatted calf in his honour.
Non-vegetarian dietary practices find an important place in the early Indian medical treatises, whose chronology broadly coincides with that of the law books of Manu and Yajnavalkya, the early Puranas and the two epics. Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata provide an impressive list of fish and animals and all three speak of the therapeutic uses of beef. The continuity of the tradition of eating beef is also echoed in early Indian secular literature till late times. In the Gupta period, Kalidasa alludes to the story of Rantideva who killed numerous cows every day in his kitchen. More than two centuries later, Bhavabhuti refers to two instances of guest reception, which included the killing of heifer. In the tenth century, Rajasekhara mentions the practice of killing an ox or a goat in honour of a guest. Later Sriharsa mentions a variety of non-vegetarian delicacies served at a dazzling marriage feast and refers to two interesting instances of cow killing. At that time, however, Somesvara shows clear preference for pork over other meats and does not mention beef at all.
While the above references, albeit limited in number, indicate that the ancient practice of killing the kine for food continued till about the twelfth century, there is considerable evidence in the commentaries on the Kavya literature and the earlier Dharmasastra texts to show that the Brahmanical writers retained its memory till very late times. Among the commantators on the secular literature, Candupandita from Gujarat, Narahari from Telengana in Andhra Pradesh, and Mallinatha who is associated with the king Devaraya II of Vidyanagara (Vijayanagara), clearly indicate that, in earlier times, the cow was done to death for rituals and hence for food. As late as the eighteenth century Ghanasyama, a minister for a Tanjore ruler, states that the killing of cow in honour of a guest was the ancient rule.
Similarly the authors of Dharmasastra commentaries and religious digests from the ninth century onwards keep alive the memory of the archaic practice of beef eating and some of them even go so far as to permit beef in specific circumstances. For example, Medhatithi, probably a Kashmiri brahmana, says that a bull or ox was killed in honour of a ruler or anyone deserving to be honoured, and unambiguously allows eating the flesh of cow (govyajamamsam) on ritual occasions. Several other writers of exegetical works seem to lend support to this view, though sometimes indirectly. Viswarupa of Malwa, probably a pupil of Sankara, Vijnanesvara who may have lived not far from Kalyana in modern Karnataka, Haradatta, also a southerner (daksinatya), Lakshmidhara, a minister of the Gahadwala king Hemadri, Narasimha a minister of the Yadavas of Devagiri, and Mitra Misra from Gopacala (Gwalior) support the practice of killing a cow on special occasions. Thus even when the Dharmasastra commentators view cow killing with disfavour, they generally admit that it was an ancient practice but to be avoided in the kali age.
While the above evidence is indicative of the continuity of the practice of beef eating, the lawgivers had already begun to discourage it around the middle of the first millennium when society began to be gradually feudalized, leading to major socio-cultural transformation. This phase of transition, first described in the epic and puranic passages as the kaliyuga, i.e. kalivarjyas. While the list of kalivarjyas swelled up over time, most of the relevant texts mention cow slaughter, as forbidden in the kaliyuga. According to some early medieval lawgivers a cow killer was an untouchable and one incurred sin even by talking to him. They increasingly associated cow killing and beef eating with the proliferating number of untouchable castes. It is, however, interesting that some of them consider these acts as no more than minor behavioural aberrations.
Equally interesting is the fact that almost all the prescriptive texts enumerate cow killing as a minor sin (upapataka), not a major offence (mahapataka). Moreover, the Smrti texts provide easy escape routes by laying down expiatory procedures for intentional as well as inadvertent killing of the cow. This may imply that cattle slaughter may not have been uncommon in society, and the atonements were prescribed merely to discourage eating of beef. To what extent the Dharmasastric injunctions were effective, however, remains a matter of speculation; for the possibility of at least some people eating beef on the sly cannot be ruled out. As recently as the late nineteenth century it was alleged that Swami Vivekananda ate beef during his stay in America, though he vehemently defended his action. Also, Mahatma Gandhi spoke of the hypocrisy of the orthodox Hindus who do not so much as hesitate or inquire when during the illness the doctor … prescribes them beef tea. Even today 72 communities in Kerala — not all of them untouchable perhaps — prefer beef to the expensive mutton and the Hindutva forces are persuading them to go easy on it.
Although cow slaughter and the eating of beef gradually came to be viewed as a sin and a source of pollution from the early medieval period, the cow and its products (milk, curds, clarified butter, dung and urine) or their mixture called pancagavya had assumed a purificatory role much earlier. Vedic texts attest to the ritual use of cow’s milk and milk products, but the term pancagavya occurs for the first time in the Baudhayana Dharmasutra. Manu, Visnu, Vasistha, Yajnavalkya and several later lawgivers like Atri, Devala and Parasara mention the use of the mixture of the five products of the cow for both purification and expiation. The commentaries and religious digests, most of which belong to the medieval period, abound in references to the purificatory role of the pancagavya. It is interesting that the medical treatises of Caraka, Susruta and Vagbhata speak of its medicinal uses. The underlying assumption in all these cases is that the pancagavya is pure. But several Dharmasastra texts forbid its use by women and the lower castes. If a sudra drinks pancagavya, we are told, he goes to hell.
It is curious that prescriptive texts that repeatedly refer to the purificatory role of the cow, also provide much evidence of the notion of pollution and impurity associated with this animal. According to Manu, the food smelt by a cow has to be purified. Other early lawgivers like Visnu and Yajnavalkya also express similar views. The latter in fact says that while the mouth of the goat and horse is pure that of the cow is not. Among the later juridical texts, those of Angirasa, Parasara, Vyasa, and so on, support the idea of the cow’s mouth being impure. The lawgiver Sankha categorically states that all limbs of the cow are pure except her mouth. The commentaries on different Dharmasastra texts reinforce the notion of impurity of the cow’s mouth. All this runs counter to the idea of the purificatory role of the cow.
Needless to say, then, that the image of the cow projected by Indian textual traditions, especially the Brahmanical-Dharmasastric works, over the centuries is polymorphic. Its story through the millennia is full of inconsistencies and has not always been in conformity with dietary practices current in society. It was killed but the killing was not killing. When it was not slain, mere remembering the old practice of butchery satisfied the brahmanas. Its five products including faeces and urine has been considered pure but not its mouth. Yet through these incongruous attitudes the Indian cow has struggled its way to sanctity.
But the holiness of the cow is elusive. For there has never been a cow-goddess, nor any temple in her honour. Nevertheless the veneration of this animal has come to be viewed as a characteristic of modern day non-existent monolithic Hinduism bandied about by the Hindutva forces.
- I’ve retained the British spelling for words like honour. All emphases are mine.
- The myth of the holy cow has at least on one occasion helped the Sangh reap an economic bonanza — McDonalds’ $10 million settlement in the beef-in-vegetarian-fries controversy included liberal dole-outs to several Sangh groups in the United States, including the Hindu Students Council.]
Shambo, a sacred bull in Wales (Britain) is making news these days. It’s heartening to see a black animal being the object of so much love, for similarly pigmented humans typically belong to the lower castes in India and are the object of much upper-caste scorn. Not that black people elsewhere are treated much better.
Getting back to Shambo, this beautiful bull has tested positive for tuberculosis, and the standard practice in Wales is to slaughter any animal suspected of carrying bovine TB. Slaughtering infected animals is probably the best way to prevent epidemics in factory farms, but animals in a domestic setting can easily be kept in isolation, so why resort to slaughter when one of them gets infected with a communicable disease? Is the callousness of a beef-eating culture to blame? A little research threw up interesting nuggets of information.
According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture:
Bovine TB, caused by M. bovis, can be transmitted from livestock to humans and other animals. No other TB organism has as great a host range as bovine TB, which can infect all warmblooded vertebrates.
Recent research has suggested that bovine TB might spread between humans. According to Reuters:
British investigators describe 20 cases of humans being infected with Mycobacterium bovis, a type of tuberculosis normally confined to cattle. In six instances, the outbreak appears to have resulted from person-to-person transmission.
Shambo apparently is looking healthy, but acccording to the USDA:
Bovine TB is a chronic disease, seldom becoming apparent until it has reached an advanced stage in cattle, captive cervids, and swine. Some infected livestock seem to be in prime condition, showing no evidence of infection until they are slaughtered, yet they may be found so seriously infected during slaughter inspection that their carcasses must be condemned.
Bovine TB can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. Although young animals and humans can contract the disease by drinking raw milk from infected dams, the most common means of transmission is through respiration. Invisible droplets (aerosols) containing TB bacteria may be exhaled or coughed out by infected animals and then inhaled by susceptible animals or humans. The risk of exposure is greatest in enclosed areas, such as barns. Inhalation of aerosols is the most common route of infection for farm and ranch workers and veterinarians who work with diseased livestock.
Perhaps realizing that science cannot (or, can it?) be deployed to make a winning case for Shambo, the temple has resorted to mythmaking:
If we were to permit DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to kill Shambo it would be an appalling desecration of life, the sanctity of our Temples and Hinduism as a whole.
And Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain has jumped in with more bull.
- Telegraph: To have a sacred bull slaughtered strikes at the very core of our beliefs.
- Guardian: To have a sacred bull from the temple slaughtered is completely unthinkable for us and is a matter of grave concern.
- BBC: Killing Shambo will violate our faith, tradition and desecrate our temple. It goes against all accepted norms of our faith.
Slaughter of cows/bulls is sanctioned in the Hindu religious texts (including the Vedas). For instance, in the Rgveda, Indra states:
Fifteen in number, then, for me a score of bullocks they prepare, And I devour the fat thereof: they fill my belly full with food. Supreme is Indra over all.
[10-086.14, p466 of the English translation of the Rgveda by Ralph Thomas Hotchkin Griffith]
Elsewhere in the Rgveda, there’s mention of Indra feasting on a vigorous bullock after battle (10-027.2). In The myth of the holy cow, historian DN Jha has convincingly argued against the historical sanctity of the cow/bull in India. The book was banned in India (and probably still is), I’ll post some excerpts shortly.
[Note added on May 15: Here’s some more bull, this time from Swami Nirliptananda, Secretary of the London Sevashram Sangha and a member of the Hindu Forum of Britain’s Spiritual Body Commission. As if the human caste system isn’t bad enough, this sick guy wants to replicate it amongst animals!
In the case of Shambo, the Hindus are looking at the difficult but humane way of solving the problem. They are looking at ways and means to protect the sacred bull which can not simply be equated with all other bulls as some are doing. Even among human beings, saintly people occupy a different status from others.
The case of Shambo must be examined differently. It is not an animal that roams about like others, neither can it be generalised with other bulls. It has a special status – a bull in the temple that affords to visitors the honour of being blessed merely by looking at it (darshan)]
Daily Mail: The Hindu Forum of Britain claims hundreds of mostly Sikh and Hindu girls have been intimidated by Muslim men who take them out on dates before terrorising them until they convert. Ramesh Kallidai, of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: “Some girls are petrified because they are constantly being phoned up, having their door knocked. … One girl was beaten up on the street and others have been forced to leave university.“
Metro: Ramesh Kallidai, from the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: Extremist Muslims make life miserable for Hindu girls. Some are petrified; they feel these men have complete hold on them. One girl was beaten up in the street and others have been forced to leave university. Mr Kallidai estimated hundreds of girls had been targeted, with some reports of Muslim boys being offered £5,000 commissions.
Guardian: When the Guardian contacted Mr Kallidai he said had been misquoted in Metro. But in a press release by the Hindu Forum of Britain he repeats many of the claims, saying that few in positions of power understand the “high levels of resentment building up in the Hindu and Sikh communities over aggressive conversion techniques and intimidation by radical Islamist groups on campuses.”
About eight weeks after being misquoted in the Metro, Kallidai still didn’t know about it until queried by the Guardian! Was he also misquoted in the Daily Mail (probably by a different reporter, as the Metro and Daily Mail articles have quite different content despite some similarities)? Even now, the HFB has only toned down its rhetoric a bit, but the stereotyping of Muslims males continues. The HFB’s concern about mistaken identities leading to Islamophobic attacks on Hindus suggests that it’s pretty well aware of the painful manifestations of Islamophobia, so its broadside against Muslim males can only be interpreted as a malicious act intended to whip up more Islamophobia. Having done their bit, the HFB and the NHSF are perhaps hoping for the British National Party to take it on from here.
So much for the Hindu Forum of Britain. Consider these:
- One side-issue of the Muslim religious aggression, which caused a continuous drain on the numerical superiority of the Hindus was the diabolical Muslim faith that it was a religious duty of every Muslim to kidnap and force into their own religion non-Muslim women. This incited their sensuality and lust for carnage and, while it enormously increased their number, it affected the Hindu population in an inverse proportion … The religious fanaticism of the Muslims was not madness at all; it was an effective method of increasing the Muslim population with special regard to the unavoidable laws of nature.
- With this same shameless religious fanaticism, the aggressive Muslims of those times considered it their highly religious duty to carry away forcibly the women of the enemy side, as if they were commonplace property, to ravish them, to pollute them, and to distribute them to all and sundry, from the Sultan to the common soldier and to absorb them completely in their fold. This was considered a noble act which increased their number.
If you think it’s the British National Party that has gotten into the act, rewind back to a few decades ago, when Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar jotted down these scholarly observations in his book, Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History. And no, I’m not about to claim that the HFB and the NHSF have a lot in common with the loony Savarkar, and so all their claims are to be dismissed outrightly. I would much rather go with Awaaz’s view, excerpted below:
Awaaz strongly condemns any attempt to intimidate or threaten students into religious conversion or religious conformity and believes that this must be tackled by university authorities. We condemn, for example, some reported incidents of Islamist groups trying to coerce Muslim women into wearing the hijab. But we believe that the National Hindu Students Forum is grossly exaggerating the issue of ‘aggressive conversions’ as part of its own political agenda. It is indulging in dangerous and divisive scare-mongering.
The National Hindu Student’s Forum is an organisation closely allied to Indian Hindu supremacist groups, such as the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). The RSS, once banned in India because of its fascist and violent history, has a virulent anti-Muslim agenda and pursues this effectively through its sister organisations abroad. Indian groups with links to the RSS are often also anti-Christian (more information on these groups is available here). Neither the British organisations nor the Indian ones represent the majority of Hindus in either country.
Awaaz believes that the NHSF in Britain is trying to turn any kind of conversion — whether coercive or not — into a matter involving the police and criminal justice system. This agenda has been imported directly from Hindu supremacist groups in India, such as the violent Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an organisation that the Hindu Forum of Britain has defended. A number of anti-conversion laws have been introduced in some Indian states after successful lobbying by these groups. These are part of an anti-Muslim and anti-Christian communal politics which has led to restrictions on religious freedom in India.
Hindu supremacist organisations in Britain have long targeted campuses in order to promote their divisive ideology.
Awaaz’s note focusses primarily on the NHSF, probably because its links with the Sangh have been well documented in its report, In Bad Faith. As for the HFB’s connections with the RSS, here’s the latest from the Sangh mouthpiece Organiser where Kallidai is effusive in his praise of MS Golwalkar (Guruji):
Shri Ramesh Kallidai, general secretary and vice president of Hindu Forum of Britain and Hindu Aid respectively said, “Trying to pay homage to Shri Guruji was like holding a candle to the Sun”. He sighted the expansion of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as one of Shri Guruji’s greatest achievements because he felt that RSS’s promotion of the Hinduvad (doctine/theory) was the only way of making true vision of our sacred seers and saints of ennobling the universe and uniting it.
Shri Kallidai went on to say that the phenomenon of the RSS and Shri Guruji was so exemplary that even some of its opponents praised it. He cited the example of Smt. Indira Gandhi who on the passing away of Shri Guruji had said, “We have lost in Guru Golwalker a famous personality who was not a Member of Parliament but who held a respected position in the nation by his personality and the intensity of his convictions”.
Now it all makes sense, doesn’t it? Stay tuned for more.
After the tsunami, when the Sangh fundraising effort was in full gear (Sewausa.org came into being a couple of days after the tsunami), CSFH sent out cautionary notes advising against donating to Sangh organizations such as IDRF, HSS, VHPA and Sewa International.
If donors are interested in ensuring that (a) all people affected by the tsunami receive relief and rehabilitation support, irrespective of their particular caste, religion or cultural affiliation, and that (b) relief and rehabilitation work is not used to create long-term divisions and animosity by manipulating communities already made vulnerable by this catastrophe, THEN giving money to sectarian organizations such as the RSS would indeed be a very bad idea.
The latest issue of the Sangh mouthpiece Organiser provides an instance of the Sangh peddling an ideology of hate in tsunami-affected Kanyakumari. The report is titled: Seva Bharathi new building in Kanyakumari inaugurated, but starts with: New building sponsored by Bharat Vikas Parishad. Confused? The title and the introductory line seem to contradict each other about the building’s sponsor, but not quite. Both Sewa Bharati and Bharat Vikas Parishad are members of the Sangh family:
- Sevadisha, the Sangh’s catalogue of its various service projects includes Bharat Vikas Parishad, and the RSS website lists BVP as a Sangh-inspired organization. IDRF also lists BVP as a sister organization.
- Sewa Bharati is the service wing of the Sangh and was inaugurated in 1979 by Balasaheb Deoras, the then supremo of the RSS (see p141, The Brotherhood in Saffron, by Walter Anderson and Shridhar Damle). For a short profile, see Sewa Bharati: Hindu Consolidation at Any Cost
At the local level, Sewa Bharati / Bharat Vikas Parishad and the Sangh merge into one. So, for all practical purposes, it’s the RSS that sponsored the building. Lets get back to the Organiser report:
New building sponsored by Bharat Vikas Parishad at Pazhathottam near Kanyakumari was inaugurated on 25-3-2007 at Guruji Nivas premises, Pazhathottam near Kanyakumari.
The Guruji referred to above is none other than MS Golwalkar, the second and longest ruling supremo of the RSS, and the man who made it acceptable for hate-filled bigots to kill in the name of Hinduism and the ‘purity’ of the so-called Hindu nation, while continually undermining India’s tradition of religious and cultural syncretism. Any RSS project includes an indoctrination component, and this project in Kanyakumari is no exception.
The inaugural function was held in the presence of Shri Surya Narayana Raoji.
An Organiser article dated May 4, 1997 refers to Surya Narayana Rao as a Seva Pramukh of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Rao also finds mention in more recent Sewa international newsletters (see here and here), so he is obviously an active RSS leader.
What do we have so far? An RSS project inaugurated in the presence of an RSS leader at a building named after an RSS supremo. The report then goes on to list several Sewa Bharati dignitaries that graced the occasion.
What’s most significant, but left unsaid in this report, is that a substantial portion of the money required for such projects is raised by the Sangh’s fundraising fronts abroad — IDRF & SewaUSA in the United States and Sewa International UK in Britain. When IDRF et al report back to their donors, don’t expect the same level of detail as the Organiser report; they would much rather have you believe that Sewa Bharati, Bharat Vikas Parishad etc. are independent NGOs (with no sectarian affiliations).
Stop Funding Hate! Spread the word about IDRF and SewaUSA.