N Nagaraja Rao
The 'Beef Festival' triggered violent protests on the Osmania University campus in Hyderabad, resulting in injuries to five students and protesters setting two vehicles on fire. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) succeeded to stall the festival, organised by Dalit student organisations supported by Left groups, in front of Narmada Research Scholars (NRS) Hostel on the campus during the last week.
The 'Beef Festival' was announced last month by the Telangana Student Association, Progressive Democratic Student Union and Student Federation of India along with student groups from English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU). Even as the festival, where beef biryani was served to a group of over 200 supporters, was being wound up, about 50 student protesters shouting slogans tried to march towards the venue and started pelting stones. In the violence that continued till late in the night, two vehicles, including a media van, were torched by the angry protesters and five students of the organising committee suffered injuries. Police lobbed teargas shells to disperse the students engaged in pitched battles.
Dalit students groups of OU supported by some senior faculty and city-based academics had organised the festival to celebrate the Dalit food culture, which includes eating beef. The festival was attended by senior faculty and academics who were caught up in the violence. Anticipating trouble, police and paramilitary forces were stationed on the campus. Trouble started when ABVP activists marched demanding the police arrest and remove the festival organisers.
Dalit and some Leftist organisations in the Osmania University campus organised this event protesting against university administration’s decision for not including beef in the mess menu. Dalit organisations felt humiliated by the decision as beef eating is believed to be a part of Dalit culture. Leftist organisations gave unconditional support to Dalit groups as they felt the decision of the university authorities was against right to choose food. OU Vice-Chancellor S Satyanarayana said that they have not agreed to the beef demand at all and the mess menu will remain the same.The campus continued to remain tense as ABVP students declared a campus bandh. By holding the festival on the campus, they hurt the sentiments of a section of students. We condemn the faculty members for extending their support to such a festival on the campus. The police should arrest all those who were responsible for the attack on protesting students against the festival, said T Ramakrishna, national executive member, ABVP. Meanwhile the organisers of the fest said that the attack on them proved the fact that their food habits were considered offensive and unholy.” We were resisting this very cultural invasion which manifested itself in violence.
Now the debate is, despite all the disingenuous claims of the organizers of the Beef Festival at Osmania University, the event was indeed a foolish provocation aimed at caste-baiting. When the alliance of beef-eaters — Dalits, Muslims and Christians — resorted to this curious form of protest to advance their demand that the university hostel serve beef, it was their unstated intention to provoke upper-caste Hindus for whom the cow is an object of veneration. Thus the Beef Festival organisers did was to make a provocative public show of their eating beef and underlying motive was entirely political. How eating beef publicly leads to Dalit emancipation and assertion of their rights is a million dollar question?
The Osmania University campus has in recent months been the hotbed of student political activism over the Telangana issue, and there had been near-unanimous support among the students for the cause of statehood for Telangana.the student solidarity stands demolished today, after caste and communal identities have been whipped up. Many believe that the Beef Festival may have had its roots in a “power struggle that’s going on among student wings in the university ever since the Telangana agitation started.” The report claimed that socially and economically backward sections among the students have accused the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Telangana Joint Action Committee, ABVP and National Students Union of India of excluding or sidelining the weaker sections from the Telangana movement.
It may be recalled that the British had come to this country with two objects: (1) to loot the prosperity of this country and its natural resources for their country. (2) To demolish our economic, social, cultural and religious structures and to spread Christianity and European culture. To achieve both these objectives, cow slaughter and propagation of beef eating were major weapons. They used these weapons very efficiently.
In 1872, the British found a willing ally in Raja Rajendralal Mitra of Bengal. He wrote an essay titled “Beef in Ancient India”. The British awarded him a doctorate and by expanding this essay he wrote a book titled “Indo-Aryan” which was published by W. Newman & Company. On the other hand, an advocate in Bombay, by the name Pandurang Kane wrote a book establishing that beef was eaten during the Vedic era. ‘They were described as progressive reformers and the society which boycotted them was dubbed and despised as anti-social, orthodox, reactionaries etc. What baffles many is the support lent to the silly festival by the left pseudo intellectuals and section of the media that initiated debates over right to freedom of choice and that included a former head of the Journalism and Communication dept of the Osmania University as if the cause is too sacrosanct.
Without resorting to ritualistic conversion into Christianity, a new section which can be described as ‘half Christians’ came into being. However, in the political circle, this section of people only was acknowledged as the leaders of Hindu Society so that in future if the Hindu population objected to the propaganda of meat eating, they could be told that their own leaders were meat eaters and hence they had no right to object to such propaganda.
Comments from a leading columnist and a historian is worthy of a mention. Farzana Versey, the Mumbai based columnist points out: “Dalits, Muslims, Christians can eat what they wish to. But to celebrate it is plain politics.” Pointing to the double-standards in the claims about fighting “food fascism”, she observes: “These Dalits will not have pork at Anjuman-e-Islam institute. Secular historian Irfan Habib, wondered: “What sort of festivity is this? This is pure and simple mischief clothed in ideology and freedom of choice.”
Many a participant was quoted as saying that most students who were active in the Beef Festival do not eat it in their homes. In conclusion one can observe that it’s a conspiracy to gain the upper hand in campus politics by creating a wedge between different castes.” ABVP has been going strong and had led many a movement against corruption and separate statehood of Telangana and AP Goshala Federation has demanded that police book cases against all those who are involved in such activities under Sections 428, 429, 153 and 295 of Indian Penal Code.
Brokers of the Christian missionaries that include many an academics and Dalit intellectuals have been led like sheep into launching a provocative campaign that inflames caste identities all around in an otherwise peaceful sudent community. Far from being proud participants in a movement for the assertion of their “food rights”, they have been led like lambs to the slaughter – while their political and religious patrons backstage harvest the fruits of their folly.
Human society is neither random nor capricious. The regularities of thought and behaviour called culture are the principal mechanisms by which we human beings adapt to the world around us. Practices and beliefs can be rational or irrational, but a society that fails to adapt to its environment is doomed to extinction. Only those societies that draw the necessities of life from their surroundings without destroying those surroundings, inherit the earth. The West has much to learn from the great antiquity of Indian civilization, and the sacred cow is an important part of that lesson, said Marvin Harris in his famous essay “India's Sacred Cow”.