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Holy Cow

News & Politics

By Tracy Pham

The article, Hindu nationalists are protecting cows over people in India, was written by Derek Welch in May of 2017. It reports that Hindu vigilantes have used their distorted visions to justify their sudden wave of violent crimes. These uprisings comprise of lynchings and murders of mostly minorities and non Hindus they suspected of trading or eating cows, a holy animal in their religious beliefs. Even with the attack on minorities increasing, the Hindutva government has not reacted since Narendra Modi, known as a part of the Hindu nationalist party called Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, was elected Prime Minister. During his campaign, he reassured the voters that minorities would be protected, but as the author puts it, “this is clearly not happening”, leaving the 14 percent Muslim population of India anxious and fearful (Welch, 2017).  In addition, Yogi Adityanath, a diehard Hindu priest who once announced that any Indians against the Hindu way of life should drown in the sea, was elected chief minister of the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. If his words were not enough proof of his devotion, Adityanath’s obsession with cows drove him to found organizations such as Gauvansh Chikitsa Mobile Vans, a special cow ambulance service exclusively for taking injured or stray cows to veterinarians and shelters. He also created the Hindu Youth Brigade, whose purpose was to enforce Hindu lifestyles through frequent disruptions of other religious gatherings and accusing them of forcefully converting Hindus to their religion. The two main concepts, further researched in this essay, include the Hindu religious practices and beliefs and the Hindutva government that dominates India.

Most Hindus praise the cow for its motherly contributions, but scholars have pointed out that scriptures, such as the Vedas, do not explicitly state that slaughtering or consuming cows are taboo (Welcher, 2017; Classical Hindu Scripture, 2015; Mukherjee, 2016). In fact, the earliest Vedas were accused of sacrificing animals in front of a sacred fire, a ritual known as Yajna, whose literal translation is “sacrifice and offering” (McKenzie; Mukherjee, 2016). The Atharvaveda (1200-1000 BCE) labels the cow as “all producing and all containing universe,” but has no specific instruction or punishment for beef consumers or slaughterers (Classical Hindu Scripture, 2015). In 700 BCE, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad encouraged parents to feed their son rice with beef or veal if they want him to be knowledgeable and interested in the teachings of Vedas (Classical Hindu Scripture, 2015). It was not until about 500 BCE, the end of the Vedic period, that Hindus questioned their morality and considered any kind of restrictions on consumption; it is assumed that beef was a part of their diet prior, even with their beliefs, respect, and worship. Now, modern follower place cows on the highest pedestal for their gentleness, a symbolic representation of Ahimsa, or non-injuring, strength and ghee. Alavijeh writes in his journal that the high praise and name Gaumata, or caretaker, in Hinduism comes from Hindu’s reliance on cows for dairy products, farm cultivating, and fertilizer. Theories suggest that these biblical factors and external benefits for Indian Hindus, established their new diet and honorable lifestyle.

The article also blames the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for not stepping in and failing to facilitate the local crime spree, so understanding its origin and modern governing style is important. Taken from the Britannica Encyclopaedia, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or English Indian People’s Party, was established in 1980, following the breakup of the Janata coalition by internal dissenters. They are a Pro-Hindu political party of post-independent India, whose roots can be traced back to the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (Indian People’s Association), which was established as a political branch, and also a pro-Hindu group, of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1951 and advocated the reform of India to Hindu culture (Apoorvanand, 2017). The BJP represents the political face of India with Hindutva, meaning “Hindu-first”, an ideology the BJP adopted to continue to shape Indian culture with Hindu values (Hindutva and Politics). Hindutva has a more culturally constructive effect than religious, but it still demands that India’s 150 million minorities adjust their beliefs, which raises tensions in the community and threatens other religions (Hindutva and Politics). Today, headlines read, Hindu nationalism is dominating India by smothering minorities and encroaching.  In it, evidence of Hindutva prevailing is proven with The BJP winning an emphatic victory in the recent assembly election of Uttar Pradesh. It also predicts that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections are favorable towards BJP as their popularity rises, especially with the increasing discontent with the Congress Party rule.

India’s population is 80% Hindus. Meanwhile, the borderline extremists and supporting government, who have no intention of allowing other religion to practice under their rule, are not showing any signs of compromise. The government should care for each individual and put their personal beliefs aside to support the right and expression of other religions. This is a difficult scenario because of how much Hinduists cherish cows and their persistence to reconstruct India to Hindu lifestyle. My proposal is for the government to do their duties and suppress the crime as any law enforcers should and protect each citizen, but that would only work in a perfect, harmonious world. In reality, the Hindus will continue to pressure non Hindus to either convert or emigrate so their only options are to fight back, leave, or assimilate. Personally, if I were a minority,  I would choose to start a new life in a place with more religious toleration, especially if the government was so strongly Hindu and they allowed religious attacks to go unpunished. The author of the article also has a tone of warning, as in, he uses the current events in India as danger signs to not get involved with India unless you were Hindu. This may not be the case entirely, but if avoidable, staying away may be the safest option, which is unfortunate because India’s culture and geography make it an ideal vacation destination and learning opportunity.

photo from

Works Cited

Alavijeh, Ali Zamani. “Representations of Cow in Different Social, Cultural, Religious and

Literary Contexts in Persia and the World .” Asian Journal of Social Sciences &

Humanities , vol. 3, no. 1, Feb. 2014, pp. 1–4., Accessed 26

Sept. 2017.

Apoorvanand. “Umbrella Politics of Hindutva.” India | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 23 Apr. 2017,

Classical Hindu Scripture. “There is no cow slaughter or beef eating in Vedas or any classical

Hindu scriptures.” Edited by Upananda Brahmachari, Struggle for Hindu Existence, 12

Oct. 2015,

-classical-hindu-scriptures/. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.

“Hindutva and Politics.” Encyclopedia of India.

s/hindutva-and-politics. Accessed 2 Oct. 2017

McKenzie, Eleanor. “Hinduism Beliefs About Sacrifice.” Our Everyday Life, Accessed 26 Sept.


Mukherjee, Dhrubaa. “What The Hindu Scriptures Really Say About Cow Worship.” Huffington

Post India, HuffPost, 14 July 2016,

Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.

Welch , Derek. “VIGILANTES KILL TO PROTECT COWS IN INDIA.” WWRN, 3 May 2017, Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.



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