Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – November 23, 2015

Cow

Cow protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world. Hinduism will endure only so
long as there are Hindus to protect the cow.

–Mahatma Gandhi

The white Mercedes taxi nudges the soiled, underfed, spotted
white calf out of the way en route to the 5-star Hotel in the
cantonment sector erected by the British during the Raj.

Among the outlandish images of Varanasi to a “first world”
traveler, the thousands of cows here, there, everywhere in the noisy,
maddeningly congested city may be the dominant image.

Considered sacred among Hindus, cows are supremely
neglected, wandering aimlessly through narrow streets and chaotic
traffic, scavenging rubbish, including carrion and residue of
cremated corpses, resting where they can.

Only a paucity of “residences” to feed and shelter cattle have
been constructed throughout India.

Moreover, cattle are officially butchered in several Hindu states
and unofficially butchered in many more.

Despite these grim data, cows are nonetheless “sacred” and not
to be physically harmed.

People—notably Muslims—have even been lynched for
butchering cattle.

Without reliable food sources, cattle will wander beyond their
usual margins.

What happens if they wander from the Hindu sector into one of
the two side-by-side Muslim sectors in the eastern part of the Hindu
holy city of Kashi and are butchered?

Motoring through one of those Muslim sectors, my Hindu tuk-tuk
wallah points indignantly to the cavernous slaughter houses on
either side of the narrow road with bullocks lined up to be butchered.

Will the Muslim butchering of a Hindu bullock that the Hindus
themselves butcher unofficially constitute an act of war?

Never mind Gandhi and other reformers, Hindus and Muslims
despise each other.

Each blames the other for immorality, war-mongering, des-
potism, terrorism.

The bloody war in Kashmir-Jammu between Muslims and Hindus
has been raging since the 1947 partition.

It is easy enough to distinguish a Hindu adult from a Muslim
adult, by the cut of the beard, the skullcap, the Arabic as opposed to
Indian dress.

Muslim and female Hindus can be distinguished by their veils,
face coverings, saris.

As in Israel and Palestine, Indian Hindus and Muslims have the
same or similar genetic roots, and without their appendages often
look close to identical.

None of that mattered, and now as planet earth is rapidly winding
down, the mutual animus has become exacerbated.

Why now?

There is a deflected high anxiety in global culture having to do
with the prospect of global warming hastening us to the end.

Finitude.

Acknowledging this insupportable reality seems much more
difficult than ramping up war and entertainment, which are often
indistinguishable.

The saner but more difficult option would be to strive collectively
in the 11th hour on behalf of the infinitely larger issues of global
warming and despoliation of the planet.

Regarding global warming, world leaders tend to respond in one
of two ways: either they agree, often in a mealy-mouthed way, that
there is a global ecological crisis and claim they are responding as
best they can to become “green,” when what they’re actually doing
is cynically catering to their constituencies.

Or world leaders are too witless or resistant to recognize that the
planet is perishing, and simply deny it while going about business as
usual.

India’s PM, an electronics zealot, is especially keen on devel-
oping “smart” cities out of the massively decaying infrastructures of
his country.

Where does that leave the cow in India?

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