Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Indian man beaten to death for the principle of non-violence

Welcome to India in the 21st Century: a 50-year old man in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was beaten death with bricks and stones by a self-righteous Hindu lynch mob a couple of days ago, and his 22-year old son was left with serious brain damage. The man's sin? A rumour that he and his family had been storing and eating beef (yes, a rumour: the family maintains that the meat was mutton, and that the rumour was spread maliciously and unfoundedly by someone in the local Hindu temple).
Mohammad Akhlaq, as his name suggests, was a Muslim, living in the predominantly Hindu state of Uttar Pradesh, not far from the Indian capital of Delhi. But Uttar Pradesh, no doubt emboldened by pronouncements on the subject by the new Hindu Nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is one of the 11 states in India that upholds a complete ban on the slaughter of all cows, calves, bulls and bullocks (although not actually on the eating of beef). In other states, the killing of cattle is allowed, and millions of Hindus do eat beef.
Many Hindus revere and all but worship the cow, which they see as symbolizing and exemplifying dignity, strength, endurance, maternity and selfless service, and the ancient Vedas exalt the cow as a prime example of the Hindu principle of ahimsa or non-injury. Fair enough, I suppose, random and absolutely nonsensical as it may appear to a non-Hindu. However, how that gives a state or a group of individuals the right to deny beef to a non-Hindu (or, for that matter, to a Hindu who happens to decide that that particular religious injunction is perhaps not so important) is quite beyond me. And how beating someone to death in order to uphold the principle of non-violence can make any sense to anyone is even more absurd.
I am a vegetarian, and have been for 35 years, although not for religious reasons. But I don't feel the need, or profess the right, to deny meat to other people. I am also an atheist, and have been for over 40 years, and I have just seen my decision to forego religion as a 14-year old absolutely vindicated. Again.

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