Sense and insensibility
Sir — L.K. Advani’s endorsement of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s “healing touch” even after the Nadimarg massacre of Kashmiri Pandits is interesting, if seen in the light of the Union home minister’s well-known Hindutva sympathies (“Advani stamp on Mufti policy”, April 1). One would have expected Advani to throw the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister’s initiative out of the window since it is the Hindus who are at the receiving end of the violence this time. Has Advani done so in order to convince George W. Bush of Pakistan’s perfidy and thus win some concessions' If that is the logic driving the Centre, then it is not behaving very intelligently — the Americans now need Pervez Musharraf more than they need Advani, or in other words, India. But the Centre’s miscalculations may just benefit the Kashmiris. Indeed, Sayeed’s conciliatory gestures towards the militants is the best chance the troubled state has of regaining paradise.
Rana Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
In the name of the holy cow
Sir — India is a democratic and secular country. This implies that no single religion is preferred over others here. If Hindus insist on worshipping the cow, Muslims have every right to stand by their custom of eating them. If worshipping the cow is a sign of the love Hindus have for animal life, then what about the chicken and goat they kill for food' Robbing someone of his food just because it is sacred to someone else is simply not done. A Central ban on cow slaughter will only encourage Hindu fundamentalism, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta rightly points out (“Cows, citizens and the state”, March 27). By giving in to the demand for it, India runs the risk of becoming what Pakistan wants it to become — an extremist Hindu nation.
Samidip Basu, Calcutta
Sir — It is a shame that communally- sensitive issues like a ban on cow slaughter are being discussed continuously at the highest political levels. Such issues only hurt the sentiments of many sections of our people. It is true that the cow is a sacred animal for Hindus, and that Hindus constitute a majority of the population of India. But which other country in the world is such an oasis of religious tolerance as India' If there have been some aberrations, it is mostly owing to the unscrupulous actions of a few politicians.
Many Hindus openly eat beef these days. Instead of worrying about the religious practices of others, we must show respect for our own religion. Issues like a ban on the slaughter of cows will only lead to more inequality and communalism. We must stop this business immediately.
Debanjan Mahata, Calcutta
Sir — Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s contention — that the demand for a ban on cow slaughter has nothing to do with morality or piety — is an astute one.
For quite some time now, politicians have been inciting popular sentiments over religious issues and then exploiting the situation for gain. The religious rhetoric espoused in the process is more a cover for the overwhelming ambitions and the moral bankruptcy of the politicians. The demand for a ban on cow slaughter would have convinced at least a few people if similar enthusiasm were shown over other issues like the uplift of the Dalits who are exploited to this day, female foeticide, the rape and abuse of women and so on. In fact, the victimization of women and Dalits is legitimized by religious traditions and beliefs. The government has to realize that we need to protect not just the cow but all forms life if we accept that the essence of religion is the affirmation of life.
Sir — Pratap Bhanu Mehta rightly apprehends that banning cow slaughter will mean giving in to Hindu fundamentalism. Neither the Centre nor the states has the right to ban cow slaughter on the grounds that the practice hurts the sentiments of Hindus. India is not officially a Hindu country which must be run in a way that Hindus feel is right or conforms to their religious beliefs. Such a ban, by encroaching on the religious beliefs of Muslims and Christians, will flout all norms of secularism and democracy.
If Hindus pushing for such a ban are so sensitive about the cow, they should perhaps start by stopping the neglect of these animals in their old age, evidence of which can be seen all over the country. But these Hindu zealots will do nothing of the sort — for them, the cow is only a pretext to stir up trouble.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — A ban on cow slaughter would push up our milk yield, driving down the prices of milk and milk products. Perhaps the cow can then be used for farming and to pull carts.
B.N. Bose, Calcutta
Sir — Much as I love Calcutta and its people, I feel angry and sad to see how dirty we keep our city. Not only does it show that we don’t really belong to this place, it also exposes how unorganized and careless we have become. The importance of cleanliness is probably not taught to the children properly these days. We claim to be concerned about cleanliness — think of the ruckus we create if we happen to find a strand of hair in a chicken cutlet — but we have no qualms about spitting on the roads or urinating on the roadside.
The government is partly to be blamed for not providing proper facilities, but it is no use trying to cover our failure with this. Calcuttans must become more responsible.
Joon Chatterjee, Calcutta