Sikhism progressed in leaps and bounds under the direction of its 10th and last living leader, Guru Gobind Singh. However, the rule of faith that neither he nor his nine predecessors could convince devotees to adopt was equality. Although Sikhism’s … Continue reading
Guru Gobind Singh isn’t just a pretty face; he was a skillful soldier, a man of letters, a philosopher, and a prolific poet. After the Mughals killed his father and his army in 1675, a young Guru … Continue reading
I’m fortunate. I’ve got three gurus who make my life interesting. First and foremost is my Punjabi Professor, Kuldip. If we hadn’t met, I wouldn’t know the other two. When Kuldip didn’t have the patience to teach me to speak … Continue reading
As mentioned in my last blog titled, Peed Off, peeing in public is a national pastime for men in India. I’ve read that some take pride in doing it even if there’s a toilet nearby. Some will also pee on the … Continue reading
After marrying a man who was born in the Indian State of Punjab, the next best thing I did in the Mrs. Bedi chapter of my life, was to take Punjabi lessons because my teacher became my first friend in … Continue reading
My Cow’s Cowards blog of September 3, highlighted the increase in violence across India in the name of ‘cow protectionism.’ Three days later, the Supreme Court of India directed the 29 States and 7 Union Territories to appoint a senior … Continue reading
Part I of this blog, examined the fall out in Chandigarh from the five-month nation-wide alcohol ban handed down by India’s Supreme Court to decrease the deaths on highways caused by drink driving. Luckily, the ban was lifted four days … Continue reading
I always hear about Kuldip’s golf woes when he gets home after playing 18 holes. The trouble he got into recently on the Chandigarh Golf Course, however, had nothing to do with either his long or short game. Kuldip had, … Continue reading
The introduction of Prohibition in India in 2016 was ridiculous, but the arrival of the cow vigilante two years earlier is downright dangerous.
The Diplomat, an online international public affairs magazine reported that, according to an analysis by IndiaSpend, a public interest journalism website, “63 incidents of [violence centered on bovine issues] were reported between 2010 and 2017. Ninety-seven percent of these occurred after the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in May 2014. Twenty-five of these incidents were reported in 2016 alone.
At the time of writing, 2017 was shaping up to be a record-breaking year with 20 cow vigilante attacks reported in the first six months.
As of September 1, 2017, thugs had killed 28 people, including a 12-year-old boy, in the name of “cow protectionism.” Most were either hanged or beaten to death. Eighty-six percent were Muslim. (India has a population of 1.3 billion of which around 14 percent is Muslim.) The remaining 14 percent comprised mainly Dalits (also called Untouchables) who are at the bottom of the Hindu caste system.
Muslims dominate the beef industry, but the Dalits do the dirty work. They’re the ones that skin the cows and tan the leather. Both Muslims and some Dalits are meat eaters, which is another beef related activity anathema to the cow protectionists. The latter of the two, I suspect, eat meat out of necessity.
The vigilante group that I call Cow’s Cowards is just one of numerous Hindu extremist groups that have sprung up across India since 2014 to enforce the BJP party’s right wing and anti-Muslim views.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, publically condemns the attacks on anyone who works with beef or eats it. But, empirical evidence exists that there is a link between his ruling party’s membership and the umbrella groups under which these cow vigilantes operate. It’s widely known, for example, that action against such violence is rarely taken, particularly in the BJP-held States and that more often than not, the victims, not the vigilantes, are punished.
Over the years the cow has become a potent symbol of the Hindu supremacist ideology called Hindutva, which defines India as a Hindu nation driven solely by Hindu values. Advocates of this ideology want a nation-wide ban on meat to foist Hindu food onto those who don’t subscribe to their religious doctrine, especially the Muslims who they despise, and it’s not far off. Slaughtering cows and eating beef is already illegal or restricted in many states throughout India.
Having the BJP in power has made it easier for groups that support Hindutva, such as the influential Bhartiya Gau Raksha Dal (BGRD), to put “cow protection’” near the top of the political agenda.
According to their website, the BGRD’s sole objective is “to care for stray, abandoned cows, bulls, retired oxen and orphaned calves.” But the results of my research illustrate that an equivalent of the RSPCA, the BGRD is not. One can easily find videos on the Internet showcasing the vicious tactics used by BGRD fanatics against Muslims and Dalits in the name of animal welfare. The scenes are brutal.
The rise of popularism combined with the emergence of extremist, right-wing factions are a reason for concern in India. A friend told me recently that, in her opinion, Modi and his ruling the BJP Party were taking India back to the dark ages and she feared for the future of her children. Based on the images I have seen and the incident reports I have read in the newspapers about the activities of the so-called cow vigilantes alone, educated people in India, like my friend, have every right to worry.
The rise of widespread violence primarily against Muslims in the name of Hinduism that’s currently spreading across India would make the country’s best-known pacifist, Mahatma Gandhi, turn in his grave.
I get it that millions of Hindus worship cows because of their motherhood status. It’s unfortunate, however, that some of them don’t equally cherish human life itself.
It’s often hard to get one’s head around the thought processes of India’s decision-makers. Some of their judgments are, in my opinion, so preposterous that they defy explanation. This story is about one of them.
When we reached Chandigarh, one of our nieces from the U.K., Kulveen, and her husband, Nick, were here as part of a two-week holiday in Punjab prompted by a request she received from Ludhiana (two hours drive west of Chandigarh) to record two Shabads (Sikh hymns).
Kulveen sings Shabads in Sikh churches called Gurdwaras. She’s well known for her Shabad singing in her hometown of Nottingham, and her place of birth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the U.K. Examples of some of Kulveen Kaur Goindi’s must-see performances feature on YouTube.
Our window of opportunity to see Kulveen and Nick was small. Therefore, two days after arriving in Chandigarh, we hosted them for afternoon tea at home. The following evening we took them to Swagath Restaurant and Bar for dinner. Our friends, the Handa and Mathur families joined us.
Kuldip decided to get a cab instead of driving. He wanted to have a drink or two, or three with his mates Divye and Sunny.
When Kuldip called Sunny to tell him we were on our way in an Uber cab; Sunny asked why Kuldip did not drive since he couldn’t drink at Swagath. In response to Kuldip’s question: “What do you mean,” Sunny said that the restaurant was not allowed to serve ‘liquor.’
We assumed the alcohol ban was a short-term measure due to the civil unrest that could follow the sentencing, that day, of convicted rapist and self-appointed “God man,” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh (see my blog In the Name of God! Part I).
When we got there, however, our friends told us that all of our favourite haunts, including Swagath, had been ‘dry’ for the past five months!
On 15th December 2016, India’s Supreme Court ordered a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol on and within 500 metres of State and National Highways effective from April 1st the following year. The judgment was designed to decrease the large percentage of deaths on the highways caused by drink driving. Chandigarh was walloped; here’s why.
Built in the mid-2000s, Chandigarh is the newest city in India. It’s famous French architect, Le Corbusier, chose a grid system that comprises 56 sectors (or suburbs) that are 1.2 km long and 0.8 km wide. All vertical roads are designated state highways except one, which has national highway status. When one takes into account the 500 meters either side of these roads, which is also part of the ban, one doesn’t need to be a mathematician to know that ruling covered the entire city.
The Prohibition had the potential to devastate Chandigarh. Not only was the livelihood of many traders at stake, but the city coffers also stood to lose an estimated Rs 250 crore (AUD$50 million) annually in excise and taxes. The financial and unemployment impact of the future alcohol ban was overwhelming.
Chandigarh’s municipal council moved swiftly to change the nomenclature of the state highways and single national one. The tactic worked for all but two of them. They were the ones, unfortunately for Chandigarh, that ran through the social hubs, namely Sectors 26 and 35, where the name change was needed most.
In addition to the redesignation of Chandigarh’s state highways as district roads, the Punjab state government changed the existing excise law to ensure that the remaining highway alcohol vendors were not affected by the Supreme Court’s edict. The changes meant that vendors could sell alcohol as long as its consumption took place on their premises.
Some supporters of the ban were so outraged by the Punjab Excise (Amendment Bill) 2017 that they formed the Arrive Safe Society, which filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court accusing the state government of modifying the judgment of the Supreme Court. Although the Court dismissed the appeal, it prompted the Supreme Court to review its decision.
On August 30, 2017, it decreed that the ban intended to curtail the sale of alcohol near highways that connect villages, towns, and cities and it does not prohibit the sale of liquor by licensed establishments within “municipal areas.”
The court’s decision to punish traders instead of going after the real culprits, the drink drivers, is absurd. I struggle to get my head around the notion of the ruling; that is, that the alcohol must have been consumed on, or near, the road upon which the accident happened. It’s irrational!
Although I missed out on having a classic Swagath Martini by two days, I’m delighted that Uber can drive us to drink in future.