The Maharashtra government's decision to ban beef has led to a vertical division between vegetarians and others. A discussion on the subject is fraught with multiple layers, and could go from preserving animals, non-violence, to minority appeasement, uniform civil code.. and can never reach a conclusion.
Check out one such conversation between an ardent beef eater and an avowed vegetarian for whom the BJP government's decision in Maharashtra is the right way to go.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
A beef lover talks to a strict vegetarian about the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill banning the slaughter of oxen, bulls and bullocks.
Cow slaughter was already banned in Maharashtra before this bill was passed. Now with this law, anyone found to be in possession of beef can be sentenced to five years imprisonment; actual consumption earns a lesser sentence.
Here's how the conversation went:
Vegetarian: I am so happy that cow slaughter has been banned in Maharashtra.
Me: Cow slaughter? Do you know cows have not been slaughtered in Maharashtra?
Vegetarian: What are you saying?!!
Me: Yes, only bulls, bullocks and oxen were slaughtered. The cow has not been slaughtered in Maharashtra since 1976.
And this bill, which was okayed by the President recently, has got nothing to do with cow slaughter which was already banned.
Vegetarian: Anyway, I am happy that animals are not being killed. It is a great victory for people like us.
Me: Are you not upset about the thousands of people losing their jobs because of this one stupid decision?
Vegetarian: These people can find some other job. They can cut goats now.
Me: You know, these people have been in the beef trade for generations. You can't tell a middle-aged man to shift to a new profession just because the BJP government one fine day feels so.
Vegetarian: Why are you blaming the BJP for this?
Me: Because they brought in this bill without giving a thought to what will happen to the employment of these people!
Vegetarian: I care a damn for their employment as long as animals are not being killed.
Me: Do you know that a bull or ox is of no use to a farmer after it turns 15 years of age?
What will the farmer do if not sell them and get some money to buy a new calf. That is how an agrarian economy runs smoothly.
Vegetarian: You don't need to worry about bulls or oxen. They will be taken care of in gaushalas. Let them die peacefully. I mean a natural death.
Me: But what about the human beings who are dying a natural death because their employment is being snatched away?
Vegetarian: I told you, they will find some thing else to do.
Me: What about goats and chicken? Why don't you impose a ban on their meat too?
Vegetarian: Ideally, I would want all kind of non-vegetarian items to be banned, but that is not possible, I guess, so let us settle for beef.
Me: How ruthless you are! You have more concern for animals than those unemployed folk.
Vegetarian: They are killers, why should I sympathise with them? They are taking the lives of animals. Butchers, b@%^&*(
Me: Do you think the government has the right to snatch away food from my table? Do you think they can dictate to me what I must eat and what I must not eat?
Vegetarian: I agree with that argument. Being a non-vegetarian you have many options. You can settle down with pork if you want.
Me: I like beef, I love to eat it. It is not alcohol or something else that I want. I am not addicted to all that stuff, only beef.
Vegetarian: But you have to respect the sentiments of the majority of the people. You agree we are a democratic country, right?
Me: How can a majority of the population that is Hindu -- and not all Hindus, by the way, want the ban! -- decide on what people must eat?
Moreover, how do you know a majority of Hindus voted for the BJP so that they must go ahead and ban beef?
Vegetarian: The BJP's election manifesto said it would ban beef if it was elected and that is what it has done.
Me: This bill to ban beef was lying with the President of India for 19 years. Why implement it now?
Vegetarian: Exactly. For 19 years. The Congress government was appeasing the minorities by not passing this bill and the BJP has done the right thing by having it passed.
Me: Why are you bringing the Congress into this?
Vegetarian: You know, in the last 60 years, the Congress has only appeased the minorities, especially Muslims. They never did anything to arrest those who didn't say Vande Mataram
If you want to live in this country, you need to respect this country's anthem.
Me: Now, why are you bringing Vande Mataram into it?
Vegetarian: Tell me, why don't Muslims say Vande Mataram?
Me: Do you know in which book Vande Mataram was first written?
Vegetarian: I don't know.
Me: Do you know what were the contents of that book in which Vande Mataram was written?
Vegetarian: I care a hoot about all that. All I know is that Muslims must say Vande Mataram.
Me: Do you know what Anand Math, the book, says about Indian Muslims in which context Vande Mataram was first written?
Vegetarian: I don't have the time and inclination to read about all that. All I know is, one country, one law.
Why don't we have a uniform civil code in our country? Why do Muslims need to have a separate law?
Me: Do you know India has one criminal law for everyone, but for civil law we have different laws for different religions.
Catholics, for instance, have a different divorce law as do Muslims. So tomorrow will you feel that all of them have to have only one law as far as divorce is concerned?
Vegetarian: You see, Hindus are already reducing in population. We are now 75 per cent of the total population and in the next 50 years we will be less than 50 per cent of India's population.
So it is important to preserve our identity and our culture.
Me: But how can the government decide what must be put on my plate?
Vegetarian: You have the right to eat what you want, agreed. However, it is more important to save the life of an animal.
You have other choices to make, but think about that poor animal, he has no choice but to get killed.
Me: End of discussion. When is India's next cricket match?