The state of Maharashtra has issued a complete ban on cow slaughter. It is now a non-bailable offence to kill a cow. One can get a bail in the case of the murder of another human being but not for killing a cow. Those who have got this law to come into place are celebrating as if they have won a victory over Pakistan. Some think of it as a non-issue: ban or no ban, what do we care? Some are worried that those who managed to get the ban issued will now push their agenda more brazenly. But in this ban, I see the beginnings of a reversal in the process of 'social change'.
The 'social change' that began after the British arrived. The change which was further accelerated with the framing of the constitution and the introduction of reservation for Dalits. Mahatma Phule was of the opinion that the struggle for independence began only because the British started meddling with the caste system in India.
Is that 'social change' in danger? To be able to answer that, let us first look at what Babasaheb wrote in the conclusion of his research:The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables?
~ These are the two limits, upper and lower, for determining the birth of Untouchability (200 AD and 600 AD resp.) Can we fix an approximate date for the birth of Untouchability? I think we can, if we take beef-eating, which is the root of Untouchability, as the point to start from. Taking the ban on beef-eating as a point to reconnoitre from, it follows that the date of the birth of Untouchability must be intimately connected with the ban on cow-killing and on eating beef. If we can answer when cow-killing became an offence and beef-eating became a sin, we can fix an approximate date for the birth of Untouchability. When did cow-killing become an offence? We know that Manu did not prohibit the eating of beef nor did he make cow-killing an offence. When did it become an offence? As has been shown by Dr. D. R. Bhandarkar, cow killing was made a capital offence by the Gupta kings some time in the 4th Century A.D. ~ Dr B.R. Ambedkar (BAWS: Volume 14)
This conclusion offered in Babasaheb's treatise The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables? is enough to draw our attention to the fact of how the ruling class can deploy cow as a political tool to further their power. The recent ban on cow slaughter, making it a bigger crime than killing another human being, points us towards a similar social conspiracy. It is similar to what happened in the 4th century AD. At that time, the main target was to attack the Buddhists. But this time around, who are all within the ambit and who will be forced to take up this profession is not hard to guess. It would mostly involve Dalits.
Why was Maharashtra chosen?
A lot of cattle are used for agriculture in the state. If 'non-essential' animals won't be taken to the slaughterhouse, they will mostly die at the doorsteps of the owners. Now who would dispose of their carcasses? Not the master for sure! Then, who else?
One particular caste, which has largely stopped doing this menial work, would either be lured with money or forced to take up this work again. That they should carry the dead bodies of cattle, skin it for leather and get trapped in the evil practice of untouchability. Because we know how this one caste and its association with leather has been the main reason for untouchability.
All preparations are in place for this conspiracy: a large section of the so-called educated in the rural areas are unable to find employment in the cities. MNREGA could have helped in generating some employment in villages, but due to rampant corruption in the Congress regime and the shortage of budgetary allocation in the BJP rule, this scheme has not been able to contain this casteist conspiracy. This decision to ban cow slaughter is neither a sudden one nor something that has not been thought through; much ground has been prepared to implement this. Like how, earlier, the Dalits (then Buddhists) were forced into professions like leatherwork, similar situations are being created today. This ban on cow slaughter is not just a law; it is a conspiracy to push Dalits back into the old degraded profession.
[Translated from Hindi by Akshay Pathak]