The strong streak of stupidity running through right-wing politics everywhere makes it pointless even to ask why concerns over non-enforcement of a law banning bovine slaughter should have acquired such over-riding importance when so many other existing laws literally on matters of life and death are flouted with brazen and shameless regularity. Assuming that laws and provisions against abuse of office, electoral malpractices, professional malpractices, municipal offences, unauthorised constructions, encroachments, substandard drugs, food adulteration, fraudulent appointments, bribery and corruption, burning of brides, (and certainly, if only for the sake of cold formality, police, paramilitary and military excesses), exist not to create false impressions of rule of law but allegedly for scrupulous implementation, society’s and the polity’s enduring and rewarding embrace with every one of these ills as the only dependable means of getting on, nay survival, stands to negate whatever claims the state may make of above-board institutional functioning.
One unintended consequence of the sangh parivar’s tireless bids to stoke communalist strife, and bamboozle its constituency into believing that faith is being served, has been a tiny window of opportunity to see through the machinations of a brotherhood duplicating and multiplying itself in various garbs in societies irrespective of religion, class or caste. And the hope is not entirely misplaced that the courts, where the matter now awaits some resolution, would open the window a bit wider to allow recognition of the mala fide intent behind this needless controversy. This is not to dismiss, or undermine the grave importance of, the “respect for religion” argument brought out to defend the ban on beef, but merely to emphasise, primarily, that the sentiment can be nourished and nurtured only by a sustained defence and protection of the values of tolerance and acceptance – values that have been frayed to breaking point, and perhaps beyond repair, by interest politics sheltering behind sacred canon.
It would be worth recalling the times when the Valley was still a composite society, and no laws were required to ‘enforce’ the respect for Ramazan sentiment during the Muslim month of fasting, as communities did so voluntarily, and out of a sense of having lived alongside each other with a fair appreciation of the content and context of each other’s practices and beliefs. Censuring and censorious sermonising was conspicuous by its absence, and though it was not unusual for an unwary Pandit, for example, to light a cigarette in a passenger bus on way to work, not knowing that the holy month had begun, his contrition on being put wise to the fact, even if somewhat testily, was never held in doubt, and this culture of courtesy and respect was observed on the basis of reciprocity.
In the case of deciding on the ban on beef, it could perhaps serve law-makers and law-enforcers alike to note strong and reasoned voices in predominantly Muslim countries that advocate lifting curbs on daylight restaurants and eateries during Ramazan, for the excellent reason that the self-restraint and discipline inherent in the month of fasting can rarely be inculcated by a state-sponsored check on temptation.