By Prerna Mukherjee
From Indira Gandhi adopting “the cow and the calf” as Indian National Congress’ electoral symbol in 1969 to the same party’s workers publicly slaughtering a calf, the Congress party has indeed come a long way.
All that transpired before the incident
With effect from 23rd May, 2017, the Union Environment Ministry modified animal cruelty rules, banning the purchase or sale of cattle for slaughter from an open market through notification of ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017’. The definition of ‘cattle’ includes cows, bulls, buffaloes, heifers, calves and camels.
As soon as the slaughter ban was notified, beef festivals were held across Kerala as a part of the protest. The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) also staged a protest in Kerala against the ban by eating beef outside University College, Trivandrum. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) alleged that by issuing this order, the government has imposed greater burdens on the farmers.
Cause for the uproar
Eight Youth Congress workers from Kerala, including Rajeel Makkutty (Youth Congress leader), were arrested by the police for their involvement in the public slaughter of a calf as the part of a protest against the Centre’s decision of banning the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter or religious sacrifice at livestock markets. On the basis of a complaint from a Yuva Morcha worker, part of the BJP’s youth wing, the police registered a case against the Youth Congress workers.
The Youth Congress workers had allegedly butchered the 18-month old animal in full public view and raised slogans against the Centre’s decision. The beef was later distributed among the people. These workers were booked under Section 120A of the Kerala Police Act which criminalises slaughter of any animal in a way that causes inconvenience to the public and is punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to 50,000 INR or both.
Burden of Congress’ political woes gets heavier
The incident led to a huge public outcry and the Congress party had to switch to damage-control mode with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi condemning the act and calling it “thoughtless”, “barbaric” and “completely unacceptable”. The central leadership of the party also distanced itself from the protest. The workers involved in the slaughter were suspended from the party.
The issue will have grave implications for the party and its leaders as many are concerned about its increasingly anti-Hindu and pro-minority image. In the next six months, the BJP and the Congress will be marked against each other in various assembly elections. This anti-Hindu beef incident tag would further add to Congress’ grievances.
Has the Congress gone astray?
The Congress party has been defined not just by its electoral performance but also by the values and spirit founded by its visionaries, who strived for the nation’s independence. Traversing the pages of Indian politics, we find that Indira Gandhi had chosen the cow and calf symbol after the Congress party split into Congress (O) and Congress (R), the latter led by Mrs Gandhi, which later came to be known as the Indian National Congress.
The Congress had established itself as a grand old party with the notions of solidarity, humanity and non-violence. This incident is an evidence of the fact that it is not just the electoral hold that the party has lost but there has also been a loss of compassion, integrity and non-violence thereby weakening the spirit of the party.
Right intentions, wrong implications
Public slaughter is a sacrifice of basic decency and values for political experiments. The butchers claimed this slaughter to be a vindication of secularism. However, secularism, one of the basic principles of democracy, has been and is being wrongly used to justify the political gimmicks such as these. The idea of secularism, in its true sense, is the idea of respecting other people’s sentiments. In this light, this slaughter being executed with such impunity manifests that secularism is in danger. The Rules framed by the Centre are themselves an attack on secularism, as it is widely believed to be an effort to propagate Hindutva.
However, the Congress workers have cast a greater evil on their party through this senseless act. Unless Congress works to improve its anti-Hindu image and comes out as truly secular, the chances of it making an electoral comeback are bleak.
Featured image credits: Visual Hunt
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