It is reassuring that President Pranab Mukherjee has at least by implication taken a firm stand on the rumpus over the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri over rumours of beef consumption. The President underlined that diversity, tolerance and plurality were core values which kept India together and must never wither away. While many ancient civilisations have collapsed, the Indian civilisation has survived because of its core values, he emphasised. Pranab Mukherjee also paid a tribute to Indian democracy. The President’s observations came in the wake of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh calling the Dadri incident ‘unfortunate’ and promising action against those trying to break communal harmony. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also said that such incidents hurt the country’s image. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not yet spoken on the disgraceful occurrence. Why he has not is not yet clear. In the past, he had always defended secular values both at home and abroad. But his silence this time has enabled some bigots like Union Minister of Culture Mahesh Sharma and an MP like Sakshi Maharaj to put the blame on the unfortunate victim. Writer Nayantara Sahgal and poet Ashok Vajpayee have criticised Modi’s silence on the Dadri incident.
The murder of Mohammad Akhlaq raises a whole host of controversial issues. There may be a lot to be said in favour of vegetarianism. But it has nothing to do with the RSS brand of Hindutva. And singling out beef eating for condemnation and legal proscription decidedly reeks of religious fanaticism. It has no medical validity nor does it come of love for animals. As a former Hindu Supreme Court judge said, cows are not the ony animals. It may be argued that banning consumption and sale of beef militates against the basic principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Murder for eating beef should not escape severe penalty. What is astonishing is that the state governments which have banned it are trying to force other state governments to follow suit. Is the Indian President a voice in the wilderness?
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