"Gaay hamari mata hai" (the cow is our mother), has been a popular refrain in the Hindi-belt for a long time. It's an idea that children are fed with so that they grow up with an inbuilt reverence for the cow. It falls neatly in sync with Hindu mythology's propagation of the cow as a divine force - the basis of the political right wing's agenda to ban cow slaughter.
In the same milieu where the 'cow-mother' myth is propagated through this idiom, the latter is often accompanied by another line that essentially mocks the idea: "Aur bael hamara baap hai" (And the bull/bullock/ox is our father).
It is often dismissed as a boorish play of words, but is actually a brutal satire on this whole charade of treating the cow as mother and as divine.
The controversy over Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu's version of Spain's famous bull run, is reminiscent of this charade. The Supreme Court had rightly banned what the state calls a sport in May 2014, saying it subjected bulls to all kinds of torture and they should be protected against it.
Exposing BJP's doublespeak
BJP continues to bat in favour of the 'sport' in the apex court, in a case against the legality of the union government's notification permitting Jallikattu.
In the latest hearing on 9 November, the court reiterated that it was a "Roman-type gladiator sport" and bulls were made to suffer for the entertainment of humans. It pulled up the union government for supporting it and asserted that even if the argument was that Jallikattu was a "sport," it was a "cruel" sport and cruelty to animals was prohibited by the law.
The case has exposed a duality that the BJP has got trapped in, after extending support for Jallikattu. The party's support for the game is at variance with its national theme of love for the cow and the dog-whistle politics of gau raksha.
Whenever the BJP has been cornered on the issue, it has conveniently sought refuge behind the Constitution, saying the nation's guide-book also mandates it. That part of it is true. Article 48 of the Constitution does say that the State shall take steps for prohibiting the slaughter of cows.
But it also goes on to include other milch and draught cattle, because they are all central to the constitutionally mandated idea of organising agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines. By harming bulls, Jallikattu goes against the Constitution as they are also draught animals. Besides, of course, the fact that cows won't exist without bulls. Why doesn't the BJP's Constitutional defence of gau-raksha apply to bael-raksha?
The bull will never become the cow
The reason is simple: its love for the cow is a political tool reeks of bigotry and a divisive agenda. Had the party any respect for the Constitution and intent to preserve the country's agricultural economy, it would have strived equally to save the bull.
In fact, if the party was honest about its professed love for the cow, it would have taken proper steps for the rehabilitation of abandoned cows.
Keeping cattle at home is an expensive affair and cows and bulls are kept only till the time they are young and productive. When they age and are required to be fed without yielding any product or service, they become a financial burden and farmers either sell them or abandon them. The BJP hardly does enough to ensure that such abandoned cattle are taken good care of.
Only beating the gau-raksha drum does no actual service for the cow. BJP only uses it as a stick to attack Muslims and Christians with, because it imagines only they eat beef and Hindus could be asked to unite against them over the issue.
The humble bull never became a political tool, in spite of ironically being considered so divine as the carrier of Lord Shiva. This is why the BJP will continue to support Jallikattu and make all attempts possible to bring it back in Tamil Nadu.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu