Dr Anita Dogra,
is a social activist who heads an NGO Sangam. She has extensively worked with
minorities helping promote
social inclusion by providing opportunities for marginalized groups, such as
poor women to engage in participatory development processes. She has also
worked as a human right activist for the last 10 years. In an exclusive
interview, she talks about her reactions to the controversy surrounding the ban
on slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks in that state of Maharashtra, its
implications, role of media and what steps should the government take to tackle
Q1- A Muslim man was killed on the
suspicion of eating beef in India? Who do you think is responsible for this
If you study the
case, the people who were involved were drunk and young 20-28 yrs old,
religious hatred had been instilled into them, by the right wing extremist
groups, the growing hatred just boiled over and caused this incidence.
All the propaganda associated with the Beef ban controversy, poor handling of
the issues by the media and the free flowing spread of rumors on the social
media didn’t help the matters either. But this issue is not about meat ban, it’s
about the fact that how is a human beings life less worth than a piece of meat,
and how can we be so inhuman and cruel. We have to over throw all these religion
based problems, caste and regionalism and have a common identity as an Indian.
I think we as
individuals can affect the people around us, if we affect the people around us,
they in turn will affect the people around them, and that’s how we bring a
change in the society. I feel the government should take a staunch approach and
be as hard handed as it can be with religion based extremism on both sides.
– What was your initial reaction when
you heard about the ban on slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks in that state of
As soon as the
news of the ban spread all over the nation, strong reactions on various social
media sites flooded in. I remember reading a tweet by anonymous commentator
that said “Congratulations Maharashtra: It is now safer to be cow than a woman,
Dalit or Muslim in the state.” Maharashtra became 23rd state to
criminalize the production or eating of beef and beef products, in fact the
possession of the meat, a serious offence inciting a five year prison term.
The irony was
because the current punishments under Indian law 2 years for drunken driving, 2
years for manslaughter, three years for theft, 5 years for cow slaughter, 7
years for conversions by priests, especially if involving Tribal and Dalits to
Christianity. Indian law has no punishment for marital rape.
Q 3- Why
has beef become such a big religious issue today? What are your views on the
beef ban in Maharashtra?
Since the 19 Century, the cow was increasing thought as a mark of Hindu
identity where as Muslims have been stereotyped as beef eaters and the Hindu
right always asserted wrongly that the Muslims brought beef eating to India.
With the BJP coming to power, beef has become an unprecedented importance in
the contemporary Indian politics. Banning beef is a part of the government
attempt to project India as a country of vegetarians. Having busted the
developmental theories for the ban, it is pretty
clear that the ban is a communal move.
you think of banning beef in India a
good move by the government, considering the religious sentiments of the Indian
considerations are the grounds for banning things, then we will end up banning
alcohol and whatnot etc. Although it is important to take everyone’s
feelings into consideration and make the right decision, banning beef slaughter
will have a far reaching effect that you can imagine. Countless families depend
on beef as a source of meat as it is affordable compared to other options. And
let me tell you these families are not community specific. There are
Dalits,Muslims Christians etc. Everything else apart their lives are filled
with uncertainty. These people do not have the luxury to decide things like “Man
is this going to hurt the followers of
my religion or maybe others?”.Survival comes first. Everything else is
Secondary. This decision will hit them hard. The government will have to see
how they can make up for the consequences of this decision so that at least the
lower caste can’t be affected.
Q5- Do you think the government tells us
what we should eat and what we should not eat?
personally don’t think so. It is matter of personal choice. There is a difference between food habits and
Q6- Do you think that Constitution of India should ban those politicians who do caste &
religion based politics, much as eating/storing beef is banned and is subject
to Punishment under the law of India?
! India embarked on a Journey to attain
full secularism the day it got the freedom. After 68 years of independence,
where do we stand? To ignite this fire of secularism our freedom fighters leaders
made plenty of efforts. Today’s Indian Politics revolve around the Caste,
Religion, and many other factors which are an absolute poison to secularism. Be
it regional parties like MIM or the National Party like BJP. This has made our
Journey next to impossible.
Q7- What do you think will be the implications of the ban on the economy
and trade in India?
Indeed it has India
is the biggest beef exporter in the world. The beef industry is valued at $4 billion,
that’s Rs 24800crores. Millions of people are dependent on this industry for
their livelihood, from the local butchers to leather goods manufacturers. 20
lakh people have already been affected.
Beef has better nutrition than chicken and mutton in terms of amino acids, fats
and protein. Beef is the cheapest of the all the meat and therefore beef ban is
removing one affordable nutritional source from the food chain. Those affected
by the ban are of the opinion that the ban should be revoked. Unless, the government
wants to divide the people with many of its saffron agendas, there is no reason
for this ban to sustain.
Q8 – What do you think is the role of the media and how do you think
it should conduct itself?
In today’s world the media has a
business element to it but it needs to understand it cannot be 100% business.
Media is an important factor in the making of a democracy. I feel the media
shouldn’t go to taking extreme positions and instead of take a balanced route.
The media should also report facts so that people can make their own judgments,
instead of being swayed by somebody’s opinions.
Q9- How should the government tackle
I would like the government to start
a honest dialogue with its people on environmental friendly eating. Also it should stop providing religious
excuses and go for hypocrisy free policies that includes preventing animal
sacrifices of all kinds.Secondly it might do an eco-analysis of various foods
involving top environmentalists and chart out the foods it would push and foods
it would restrict. Last but not the least the government should work with the
religious leaders to ensure an adjustment of diets. For instance, instead of
banning beef the focus could be on reduced consumption of water intensive foods
and bringing cruelty free killing.
Q 10-Do you think that this controversy would
have been avoided?
It is an unnecessary controversy
that could have been avoided. I’m a vegetarian, but I don’t support such a ban
because I feel it interferes with people’s religious and dietary habits.
Secondly, banning anything pushes things underground where things are far more
brutal and far less regulated. The most pivotal point is all this sounds somewhat
arbitrary. Why restrict to only cow? What about animal sacrifices in Hindu
temples? I believe both of these killings are equally to be avoided.
Q11- Q: As an idea, do you think
it’s time for you and other forward-looking groups and NGOs to take up this
issue of fringe groups hijacking the religion in the name of banning the
killing a specific animal?
Indeed! We will be planning a silent march as a protest against the killing of
an innocent human being in the name of hurting religious sentiments.